Let a team come back one time in a game, and you are playing with fire. Do it twice, and you'll almost certainly get burned.
The Buffalo Bandits were reminded of that fact Saturday night as they dropped a 16-15 decision to the Minnesota Swarm before 18,690 in HSBC Arena. "It was awful -- a disappointing loss," said Bandits forward John Tavares about his team's performance. It was the first home loss this year.
"We have to learn that when we get up three goals, we have to get up six goals," added teammate Mike Accursi. "We have to step on their throats. We didn't do that. We kept them in the game."
Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour wasn't any happier than his players.
"We didn't play hard enough. We didn't play smart enough," he said. "We didn't have our focus for 60 minutes, the same thing I've said after many games this year, and there it is."
The Bandits (7-2) looked headed for a win a couple of times. Yet some uncharacteristic collapses allowed Minnesota to improve to 4-5.
The first flat spot started with 3:23 left in the first half. Buffalo had taken an 8-3 lead, as Tavares already had scored four goals at that point and Mark Steenhuis had two.
Minnesota didn't roll over. Not only did the Swarm get to within 8-7 at halftime, but intermission proved to be no elixir to the Bandits' problems. Buffalo only scored one goal on four shots in the third period, and fell behind, 10-9, after three quarters.
"We made some adjustments at the half," Minnesota coach Duane Jacobs said. "We started applying a bit more pressure, and that put them out of sync defensively."
That set up a dizzying fourth quarter in which both teams scored six times. Buffalo got a pair of short-handed goals early in the period to tie the game at 11-11, and went up, 14-11, with 4:19 left.
"Obviously, when you are up by three with four minutes to play you should win the game," Tavares said.
"All of a sudden we've got four guys back and nobody wants to pick anyone up," Kilgour said.
Minnesota turned the game around with another rally that was as sudden as it was unexpected. The Swarm scored the next five goals to take a 16-14 lead with a minute to play. It was an impressive effort by a team that had ended a five-game losing streak on Friday night by beating Toronto.
"We came in with a good mind-set," Jacobs said. "The boys knew we had an opportunity to come in here and maybe get another win. We knew the task at hand was certainly going to be difficult, but we had a good frame of mind."
Cory Bomberry of the Bandits made it interesting by scoring with 44 seconds left, and Buffalo had the last shot of the game in final moments with a chance to tie it. But Roger Vyse hit the goal post, and Buffalo's hopes expired.
Mark Steenhuis, Tavares and Accursi had four goals each for the Bandits, who also received a goal and five assists from Bomberry. Aaron Wilson had five goals and three assists for the Swarm, with help from Sean Pollock (nine points) and Chad Culp (eight points).
The Bandits have two weeks to ponder this loss, as they get a week off for the All-Star break. Next up for Buffalo is Rochester on March 14.
"It's disappointing when you have to wait a couple of weeks to redeem yourself after a loss," Tavares said. "We'll learn from this."