The injuries are endless, the lack of offense confounding. At least the bounces, for one night, mostly went the Buffalo Sabres' way.
But the scoreboard again did not. So the Sabres' latest trick to get out of this wretched slump is going to have to be to flip the calendar to a new year.
In what was often a nasty, in-your-face battle, the Sabres suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night in First Niagara Center. Buffalo fell to 1-5-1 in its last seven games.
The shootout went five rounds and Ottawa won it, 3-2, on Bobby Butler's goal. Brad Boyes and Jason Pominville scored for Buffalo. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson answered for Ottawa, with Alfredsson tying it by just trickling one through Jhonas Enroth's pads when a save meant a Buffalo win.
"Somehow the hockey gods gave that one a little extra push," said coach Lindy Ruff. "It just found that little bit of a hole there. You had to watch it and all of a sudden it just squirted loose."
"I thought I had it," said Enroth, who made 44 saves in the game. "I dropped down, it rolled between my legs and over the goal line there. It was a bad bounce for us."
The usual sellout crowd of 18,690 included a few hundred decked out in tuxedos and their best evening finery in preparation for the big party at the stroke of midnight.
The Sabres sent them into the streets for the night's main event on yet another downer.
The Sabres return to action Tuesday when Edmonton comes to town in the first game of the new year.
The Sabres need to start the new month with the kind of work ethic they finished this one with. They matched every push and shove the Senators had to offer in a game that saw no goals over the final 39 minutes. Brad Boyes and Paul Gaustad got the Buffalo goals; it was the third of the season for each and Boyes' first since Oct. 27.
"We put a lot of work in. We generated some chances," said Pominville. "It was definitely a step in the right direction to get a point. But to a man we know we have to be better to get on a roll. Everybody's going to have to be a little bit better."
Enroth got the start for the Sabres, his first since Dec. 10, and gave the team a strong effort in the face of Ottawa's 46-28 advantage in shots. Ryan Miller had started eight straight games and 11 of the last 12.
Enroth, who started the season 6-0, has been struggling mightily since and entered the game in a 1-6-1 slump. And while he made a few good saves, notably a stoning from in tight on Alfredsson in the second period, Enroth basically only stayed in the game because the Senators had direct hits on six goalposts -- four in the first period.
"For sure, if you don't give up a couple goals there it helps your confidence," said Enroth, who insisted he wasn't really beaten on any of the shots.
The last post came on Butler's laser from the left circle with 1:01 left in regulation, right after Matt Ellis had fired wide on a 3-on-2 break at the other end of the ice.
Both teams had great scoring chances in the first 90 seconds of OT as Pominville hit a goalpost for Buffalo and Enroth made a great glove spear of a Filip Kuba slap shot. Ottawa's Craig Anderson then stopped Derek Roy a few seconds later. Enroth made the final good stop of OT on Spezza.
The Senators' fascination with ringing out the new year began on their first shot just 70 seconds into the game as Erik Condra broke in on a 2-on-1 and whistled one past a beaten Enroth right into the pipe.
Given a reprieve from falling into another early deficit, the Sabres took advantage on a power play when Brian Lee went off for tripping at 3:02.
Boyes put Buffalo in front at 4:06, sweeping home the rebound of a Jordan Leopold shot that crushed Anderson high in the neck area and appeared to stun the Ottawa goalie.
Kyle Turris hit a post and Enroth made a great pad save on Chris Neil to keep the Sabres in front. Butler hit post No. 3 and Erik Karlsson cranked the fourth of the period on an Ottawa power play with four seconds left.
The Senators finally broke through at 1:55 of the second as defenseman Matt Carkner took a neat pass from Turris and beat Enroth high to the glove side for his first goal since Dec. 19, 2010 at Colorado.
Buffalo came right back at 3:27 as Gaustad created plenty of interference with Anderson and tipped home Leopold's shot from the right boards for his third of the season.
Back came the Senators at 6:15 on Neil's breakaway goal. The netminders then took over.