DETROIT -- Perhaps it's long overdue but Phil Housley's stern face late Friday night seemed to indicate his patience is wearing thin.
More than any time this season, Housley was exasperated with his team after the Buffalo Sabres' 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Little Caesars Arena.
It was a game with a whole lot of nothing for the Sabres, who are 5-10-4. The Eastern Conference's last-place team managed just 20 shots on goal and only 37 attempts. They took undisciplined penalties, which hindered any chance at building momentum even though the penalty killers went 5 for 5. They seemed a step behind all night.
Housley, who has routinely tried to put lipstick on a pig after bad outings this season, didn't go down that path this time.
"We've got to be smarter," Housley said. "We just got outbattled, outworked and outcompeted tonight. At times we even looked slow and I don't know why that is. We played one game in six nights. It's disappointing."
Housley's system is predicated on speed. You could have fooled anyone watching this snoozer.
The Sabres had just 10 shots on goal through two periods and the total of 20 was a season-low. No one on the roster had more than two.
"To a man here, we're embarrassed with it," said center Ryan O'Reilly, whose goal at 5:50 of the third period pulled Buffalo into a short-lived 1-1 tie. "We're not happy. We need a much better effort."
The list of offenders were numerous. Jack Eichel had just one shot on goal while going 2-10 on faceoffs. Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart and Zemgus Girgensons were also part of the one-shot brigade.
"They came in waves and we put ourselves in a lot of tough situations," Eichel said. "We were outcompeted. It's on us. They put a lot of pressure on our 'D'. They did a good job containing us ... We didn't do enough to sustain the forecheck and when we did get in the zone, they broke the puck out relatively easily and that was frustrating."
Eichel had a tough night, doing little offensively and taking a hip-to-leg hit from Detroit's Luke Glendening in the final minute of the second period. Eichel limped off but was able to return and skate regularly in the third.
"I'm all right," Eichel said. "Just got kind of a dead leg there for a second."
The Sabres lost the game on Tomas Tatar's screened shot at 8:36 of the third and Dylan Larkin's rebound that provided insurance with 4:06 left. Robin Lehner made 30 saves and was easily Buffalo's best player but he didn't get much help.
Detroit's first goal, by Glendending with 55 seconds left in the second period, came as O'Reilly, Jake McCabe and Nathan Beaulieu were all outworked for the puck down low until it finally squirted free to the right of Lehner.
"I lost my man," O'Reilly said. "He got in front of me to the net, made a play and it's in the back of the net."
"It was all battles tonight," Housley said. "The games we're really intense, into the battle and staying in the battle, we're a good team. When we don't battle, it's very evident. We lose coverage, we have breakdowns."
Lehner was at the top of his game or the massive scoreboard in the NHL's newest arena could have been showing a much different tale.
"It was pretty ugly," Lehner said. "We were right in it, 1-0 to start the third but I don't think that result reflects what was happening out there. It's tough, very tough. We're professionals. We've got to move on but these ones are tough. It was not a good game."
If the Sabres are looking for any silver linings, it would be that they open a four-game homestand Saturday night in KeyBank Center against Carolina. Columbus is in town Monday followed by Minnesota on Wednesday and Connor McDavid-led Edmonton on Friday.
Of course, playing at home hasn't been any panacea for Buffalo this year either. The Sabres are just 2-4-1 downtown and the only NHL team worse on its home ice is Arizona (1-6-1).
"It's going to be huge," Eichel said. "We have to get home and get our game together."
Added Housley: "We're going to have to right the ship because Carolina is a pretty good hockey team right now with pretty good balance. We've got an opportunity to start this four-game homestand the right way, but we've got to come to work."