Lindy Ruff suggested the Buffalo Sabres might need to hurt a little more, sink a little deeper, before they rectified their recent problems. Their losing streak has reached an even handful, and you can't help but wonder if pain and suffering is becoming cruel and unusual punishment.
The Sabres could disregard their slump as a good team falling on hard times when they were losing to Ottawa and Carolina, but it grew ugly Saturday night when they were beaten, 5-4, by a Boston Bruins team that supposedly was moping through the remainder of a miserable season.
"The pain is enough," Ruff said.
The Sabres were hoping to take advantage of Boston, a weaker team they had dominated all season. Instead, they were outplayed, outworked and outskated before 15,710 fans and plenty of empty seats in TD Banknorth Garden.
"It seems like we're digging deeper and deeper into a hole," Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere said. "Maybe we don't feel the urgency to produce. It's not something we can let go anymore. You can lose two or three, but not four, five going into the playoffs."
Marco Sturm scored off a pass from Brad Boyes with 4:49 remaining, mercilessly ruining the Sabres' rally after they trailed, 4-2, going into the third period. Brian Campbell and Henrik Tallinder brought the Sabres back with goals in the third, and it looked like the Sabres might be celebrating a thrilling victory.
"It's a case of not finishing it off," Campbell said. "If you don't finish it off, there's nothing positive you can take out of it."
Buffalo came up for air a few times and showed it's inching closer to breaking the losing streak. Chris Drury converted a perfect pass from Maxim Afino genov on a two-on-one in the second period to bring the Sabres within 3-2. Afinogenov gave the goal back when he coughed up the puck and set up Boyes with 49 seconds left in the period. Campbell scored 38 seconds into the third period, Tallinder with 7:08 remaining.
The Bruins scored three times in the second period. They built the 3-1 advantage when Glen Murray and Tom Fitzgerald scored 61 seconds apart on similar plays off perfect passes. The first goal came when Brad Isbister found Murray behind Campbell, the second when rookie Yan Stastny fed Fitzgerald, who slipped behind Toni Lydman.
"We were in the game, and then -- bang -- we're down, 3-1," said Miller, who made 34 saves. "We're not going to be the comeback kids every night."
Patrice Bergeron scored in the first period for Boston moments after Ryan Miller stopped Travis Green on a penalty shot. Derek Roy pounced on a loose puck and buried a one-timer in the second period for the Sabres.
The Sabres play in New York on Monday night against the Rangers.
Miller was solid in goal and held the Sabres together until they finally broke through against Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. The Sabres were 0 for 7 on the power play, the fifth straight game they failed to score with the man advantage. The Sabres have not scored in 22 straight opportunities with the extra man.
Buffalo had been trying to restore the style that made it successful for most of the season after it gradually slipped away during an eight-game winning streak. If there was one opponent Buffalo could have chosen to right the wrongs, it was Boston. And if there was a time to play them, it was Saturday.
The Bruins announced the firing of General Manager Mike O'Connell about an hour before the game and basically gave up on the season. They could have rearranged the entire hockey department, but it shouldn't have changed the fact Boston's pokey defense couldn't skate with Buffalo's forwards.
Everything pointed toward Buffalo. But, lately, nothing is a given.
"It's totally our fault," Campbell said. "We have to right this ship. We'd better start turning things around."