LOS ANGELES -- You want brutal honesty in the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room, you go right to goaltender Robin Lehner. No cliches, no coddling, no covering up. It's the unvarnished view, as unsightly as it might be.
Lehner was strong on the ice Thursday and to the point again afterward following the Sabres' 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Staples Center. It was a game available for the taking, as the Kings scored both their goals in the third period to snap a scoreless tie, but one that featured an embarrassing start for the Sabres.
The Kings crowned the Sabres on the shot counter, 15-2, in the first period and the Sabres still had just six shots on goal with the game 35 1/2 minutes old before finally creating some offensive push.
Buffalo put together 20 shots on goal over the final 24 1/2 minutes, including 15 in the third period. The final count was 36-26 for the Kings as the Sabres dropped their second straight out West and were shut out here for the fourth straight time.
Lehner's view in the crease was as good as any to see what was going on. The Sabres missed passes breaking out of their zone, as usual, and didn't develop any semblance of a forecheck in the Los Angeles zone until the third period.
"You can't come into a building like this and expect to play 10 minutes of good hockey. Sorry to be honest, you're just not going to win games," Lehner said in calm, measured tones. "We can't wait for them to score the first goal and wake up. It's not how the game is played. They're a good, solid, big team and they're going to shut you down. We had a couple of shots, a couple of chances but they kept us to the outside."
The Kings won the game on 39-year-old Jarome Iginla's goal 36 seconds into the third period and got insurance on 21-year-old Adrian Kempe's tally with 5:20 left. In between, the Sabres pressed for a tying goal but were stopped by goaltender Jonathan Quick.
"It's frustrating to see," Lehner said. "When we turn it on in the third we play really good. We've got to play that way full games. You can't just put out the skates the first two periods and expect to come out with a win by making a late push."
Lehner is certainly holding up his end. Since relieving Anders Nilsson in the second period of Saturday's win over Columbus, he's stopped 95 of 101 shots for a .941 save percentage.
Evan Rodrigues led the Sabres with five shots on goal and centered the team's best line, between Marcus Foligno and Hudson Fasching. Of course, if a line two-thirds comprised of players who spent most of the year in Rochester is Buffalo's No. 1 trio, the Sabres have quite a problem on their hands.
Jack Eichel had two shots on goal -- and both came in the final 1:37 of the game. Sam Reinhart also had two and one was a flip shot from outside the blueline in the first period. Ryan O'Reilly had no shots on goal and only one attempt while going 17-5 on faceoffs. But he was also on the ice for both goals.
"I've got to generate more," said O'Reilly, now without a goal in five straight games. "I've got to compete better. Not good enough."
The Sabres are 2-8-2 in their last 12 games and their playoffs hopes are essentially gone. You might say they're playing out the string for the final 11 games but Lehner doesn't buy that theory.
"At the end of the day, it's up to each and every one of us," he said. "This is a business. You've got to come out and play. Otherwise, you get replaced. It's simple. It doesn't matter if we're in or out. Everyone needs to be playing for their jobs. It's a privilege to play in this league. You've got to earn it. We all have to decide if we're going to help each other make a good last impression these last 11 games left.
"If you just pack it in, there's a lot of eyes, a lot of eyes looking and people see. And it's pretty obvious. If we want to stay in this league, you better get your head on straight."
Embattled coach Dan Bylsma certainly agreed.
"That's our job as professionals to do that," said Bylsma. "The games we've got left, the opportunities we have, we have to play just like we were in a playoff race, just like we were in the hunt. That's the job of all of us going down the stretch."