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Error apparent in Sabres' loss Critical mistakes doom chances of win

Perfection isn't just something the Buffalo Sabres want. With their top two players injured, it's something they need. Mistakes are going to be magnified, and errors are going to cost them games.

For Exhibit One, see Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Anaheim.

The Sabres did just enough wrong to kill their chances of winning. They gave up a breakaway before the HSBC Arena crowd had settled into its seats. They missed open nets. They allowed a short-handed goal.

Add them all up, and even a fully stacked squad would have trouble. When a team is missing starting goaltender Ryan Miller and leading scorer Thomas Vanek, say goodnight.

With Miller out, the game plan in front of Patrick Lalime depends on two things, no mistakes and a bit of luck. Sure enough, the Sabres erred and Anaheim benefited from some bounces.

The first shot of the Lalime regime went into the net just 70 seconds after the opening faceoff. Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman twice fumbled the puck at the Buffalo blue line, and the result was a Teemu Selanne breakaway.

The 17-year veteran doesn't need that much help to score. He put a backhand past Lalime for his 571st career goal, two shy of Mike Bossy for 18th all time.

"The first shot Patty faces is a breakaway, and those are the kinds of things that can't happen," Sabres right wing Jason Pominville said.

Rather than build on their good fortune, the Ducks sat back and let the Sabres come back. Buffalo tied the game midway through the first period as part of a one-sided shot barrage.

Paul Gaustad screened Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere as a Buffalo power play wound down. When Giguere moved to his right to see around the big center, Gaustad deflected Ales Kotalik's shot to Giguere's left.

The goal was part of the Sabres' 29-minute domination on the shot counter. They rolled to a 20-4 advantage, including the first eight of the second period.

The momentum changed when Anaheim's special teams took the ice. They rolled up four shots on a power play, then scored short-handed with 8:26 left in the second.

"You don't like to break momentum," said Lalime, who finished with 18 saves. "We had just killed a penalty and we're going on the power play, and they get that goal. But that's the way it is."

The Ducks made it 3-1 late in the period with two fortuitous bounces. Lalime looked to his left to follow Brendan Morrison behind the net, but the puck had hit a skate. Mike Brown collected the carom and went to the right of the unsuspecting Lalime.

Brown missed his dump-in attempt, but the puck traveled through the crease and bounced off Gaustad's skate into the net.

"Almost all their three goals were after our mistakes, so we've got to clean that up," Lydman said.

Turnovers, missed chances and Giguere thwarted the Sabres after that. Buffalo had six of its eight giveaways in the third period. Kotalik missed an open net and Derek Roy hit a crossbar. Giguere made 34 saves.

"This is the time of year you've got to step up and those have got to be put away," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

The portion of the 18,690 fans who stuck around got a brief flash of hope when Kotalik scored on a six-on-four with 1:06 left. But the final 66 seconds were uneventful, shining a brighter light on the earlier miscues.

"You don't want your goaltender to face a breakaway his first opportunity," Ruff said. "I thought we picked it up and played pretty well for the next 30 [minutes], but we didn't take advantage of some real good situations, and a bounce here and there will beat you."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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