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Goal is a dirty word as Sabres' scoring slump worsens

Phil Housley was talking about dirty goals, about guys getting to the net and creating screens and havoc.

"When's the last time we got one of those?" the Buffalo Sabres coach said in a mocking tone.

Housley's question was rhetorical, but there is a real answer. It's not pretty.

The Sabres have played 233 minutes, 5 seconds of hockey since their last dirty goal. Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville repeatedly whacked at the puck in the crease last Wednesday against Minnesota.

Buffalo has scored a few goals since then, but they've ranged from lucky to impressive. The closest thing to a dirty goal was Jacob Josefson's tally Friday against Edmonton. There was a lot of work along the boards, but the finish was pure snipe as he sent an uncontested laser into the corner.

There have been no goals – dirty, clean or otherwise – in the past two games. For the second straight outing Tuesday, the Sabres got blanked. They followed up a 3-0 loss in Montreal with a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay in KeyBank Center.

The scoreless skid is at 120:51.

"We can't go through games not scoring goals," defenseman Marco Scandella said.

Actually, they're doing a solid job of that. Buffalo has scored one goal or none in nine of its last 16 games. The Sabres rank last in the NHL at 2.20 goals per game. Montreal is 30th at 2.36 and Vegas is first at 3.68.

Buffalo has been shut out in consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 17-18, 2014.

"Ahhhhh," an exasperated Rasmus Ristolainen said. "We're chasing the game. We've been down a lot this year, and we've got to figure it out."

The Sabres played the final 4:19 with goaltender Robin Lehner on the bench, but the extended six-on-five still couldn't produce a goal. Even during the final seconds with the game out of reach, players were standing at the bench and leaning toward the Tampa Bay end, hoping to get rid of the doughnut.

"We're in a bad position, and we've got to all of us be desperate," said Lehner, who was beaten only on goals that deflected off teammates. "We need to claw back. We need to do something special.

"It's unfortunate."

Sabres Notebook: Too little desperation too late in games

As weary Sabres fans watch – or don't watch, based on the growing number of unused tickets – they can take solace in the fact this isn't the worst start in franchise history. It's awfully close, though.

The Sabres fell to 6-15-4. It's only one victory more than the worst 25-game starts ever. Buffalo won five times through 25 games in 1970-71, 1971-72, 1986-87 and 2013-14.

Things didn't get much better after the opening 25 games for those clubs.

The 2013-14 Sabres finished last overall in the NHL with a 21-51-10 record.

The expansion team of 1970-71 was ninth in the 14-team league with a 24-39-15 record.

In 1971-72, the Sabres finished 12th out of 14 at 16-43-19.

The 1986-87 edition was 20th out of 21 teams at 28-44-8.

The bankrupt Sabres of 2002-03 finished 26th out of 30 teams at 27-37-8-10.

That's not good company for this year's squad.

"We've got to give a better effort," Scandella said. "It's our rink, our fans, and we have to be better."

The Wraparound: Lightning 2, Sabres 0

The Sabres, who host Pittsburgh on Friday, are 3-8-1 in KeyBank Center. They've scored 23 goals in the 12 games, an average of 1.9.

They got no goals on 34 shots against Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. He saw most of them and made easy saves.

"We've got to find a way to make it more difficult," Housley said. "We've got to get in the trenches and get a dirty goal.

"The bottom line is we outchanced a team, we outshot a team, but I just don't think we're making it difficult enough on the other goalie."

Mike Harrington: Lightning have plenty of power

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