The Buffalo Sabres turned in one of their worst home performances of the millennium by almost any standard Tuesday night, dropping a 7-2 decision to the Detroit Red Wings at Marine Midland Arena.
Buffalo's play, particularly during a second-period stretch that saw the team give up six goals in 8:36, upset everyone with a connection to the team -- the 18,690 in attendance in Marine Midland Arena, the coaches and the players.
"That's the toughest loss, especially at home," coach Lindy Ruff said.
"We're not happy. We're all embarrassed," Jay McKee said.
"That's not the way you want to end 1999, that's for sure," Rhett Warrener added.
As one-sided as the game was, it could have been even worse. Buffalo trailed, 7-0, with 29 minutes left when the Red Wings eased up. While the Sabres played a poor game during a loss in New Jersey on Monday night, that effort looked better and better as Tuesday's game went on. Detroit capitalized on Buffalo turnovers in building up a huge lead.
The Sabres might have guessed it wasn't going to be their night right from the start, when a puck bounced off Warrener's stick right to Doug Brown of the Red Wings in the slot. Goalie Dwayne Roloson had no chance at preventing Detroit from scoring at 1:13 of the opening period.
Buffalo had some good chances in the final minutes of the period but couldn't score on any of them. Then they quickly fell miles behind.
Here's how the six-goal burst unfolded:
Igor Larionov's shot was never seen by Roloson, thanks to a screen by Tomas Holmstrom -- 2-0, at 2:27.
Holmstrom stole the puck and hit Nicklas Lidstrom with a pass, and Lidstrom's shot went in -- 3-0, at 3:17.
Exit Roloson, enter Martin Biron.
Aaron Ward's shot from the left point bounced off Rob Ray and went past Biron -- 4-0, at 3:59.
An unguarded Pat Verbeek had an easy time scoring on a rebound -- 5-0, at 4:22.
Holmstrom deflected home a long centering pass from Chris Chelios -- 6-0, at 9:58.
Exit Biron, re-enter Roloson.
Alexei Zhitnik made a giveaway, and Verbeek cashed in on a 20-foot slap shot -- 7-0, at 11:03.
"In all my years of playing hockey, I've never been involved in a period like that," McKee said.
"It was like a drill where we started from center ice all the time," Ray said. "We looked up at the shot clock, and it seemed like they were scoring on every shot."
"I felt bad for the other guys," Detroit goalie Ken Wregget said. "Sometimes you have those days."
By the time the third period rolled around, the fans were chanting "We want one." Miroslav Satan almost got it when he hit the goal post on a penalty shot, but he finally got the Sabres on the scoreboard by scoring his 17th with 8:37 left. Dixon Ward added his fourth with 1:04 left.
Using these two games as a measuring stick, the Sabres are a long way behind two of the league's better teams, the Devils and Red Wings. McKee is trying hard to maintain a sense of perspective.
"We're trying to be in a frame of mind where we don't get down on ourselves," he said. "When you're not playing well, the worst thing you can do is point fingers and be afraid to go out and play. It sounds funny, but we're trying to stay upbeat. Instead of dwelling on one of your worst days ever, we're trying to put it behind us.
"We're not happy with the last two games. And if this continues, there will be a change of mind. But for now we're trying to stay positive."
The Sabres open 2000 with a New Year's Day game against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.