SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It's only mid-October but you can already feel the exasperation bubbling in the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room.
The Sabres don't have much going on right now in the wake of Thursday's 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks in SAP Center that opened their four-game road trip. They're 0-3-1, tied with Arizona for the worst record in the NHL and off to their worst start since 2013. They have nine goals in four games and three players have accounted for all of them.
"We've got to just figure a way to be sick of losing," said Jack Eichel. "I know I'm sick of losing. There's a lot of guys that are sick of losing. There's a difference between playing hard and playing hard and smart. We've got to execute our game all the way through the lineup, myself included."
There were no good-job, good-effort backslaps after this one even though the Sabres did substantially tidy things up on the defensive end. There was no epidemic of odd-man rushes like we saw in their previous two games. No breakdown of the power play to allow yet another backbreaking short-handed goal.
The Sabres were outshot by just one in the game (26-25) but only had five in the third period and had few good chances to score the tying goal they needed.
As goaltender Robin Lehner quietly intoned, "If you don't have the effort, that's an automatic. Every team in this league ought to have the effort. I think the effort was a bit better but it comes down to small details, to bringing everything together. ... This is awful. It's not fun."
"It's a league of results, right?" said Jason Pominville, who scored both goals. "It's frustrating we're not getting the results that we want but I thought our effort was way better and we've got to take that with us. At the end of the day, we didn't get the two points and that's what we play for and what we want."
Pominville scored twice on nifty Eichel feeds after strong work by Zemgus Girgensons to set up the play and earn a secondary assist. One got the Sabres even at 1-1 in the first period, the other forged a 2-2 tie in the second. But San Jose won the game when Timo Meier tapped home a loose puck on the edge of the crease with 5:30 left in the second period.
So through four games, Pominville and Evander Kane have four goals apiece and Eichel has one. Eichel has four assists and five points. Girgensons and Rasmus Ristolainen, each with two assists, are the only other players with more than one point. Ristolainen is the only defenseman with any points. Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo and Benoit Pouliot remain pointless. Ryan O'Reilly has one assist.
With their offense struggling, the Sabres haven't led at any point in the last three games.
"Sometimes you do squeeze your stick. You're an offensive player and want to contribute," said coach Phil Housley. "You feel better about yourself and your contribution to the team when you do. It comes down to hard work. We have to work our way out of these things. Even the guys who aren't scoring have to find a way to work through it."
"We all need to relax," Eichel said. "We have a lot of good players on this team. It will come. It will come. It's frustrating it's not coming right now. We want to see results. We're working hard but sometimes working hard is not enough."
From his view, Lehner said the Sabres need to force more traffic around the opposing net like their opponents are doing to him.
"You're not going to beat goalies if you don't have anyone in front of the net," he said. "I think Martin Jones saw every shot today. It's not to be on anyone but we've got recognize that as a team. ... Man, we've got to get in front. I thought I had a guy in front of me the whole game as soon as they were in the zone. That's what the good teams do. You've got to fight and earn the shots you see as a goalie in this league and we've got to make it tougher on the other team's goalie."