The Sabres were ailing on and off the ice Saturday night as flu-like symptoms invaded the dressing room and mistakes filtered through the lineup. Buffalo lost three players to illness or injury and dropped a 5-1 decision to Colorado.
There’s no telling how many players will be healthy when Buffalo visits Boston on Sunday night.
The Sabres’ top left winger, Matt Moulson, left First Niagara Center prior to the game after not feeling well. Patrick Kaleta got sick and departed after one period. Defenseman Tyler Myers went out with a lower-body injury during the second period.
Moulson and Kaleta didn’t travel to Boston. The Sabres were expected to call up center Tim Schaller and defenseman Mark Pysyk from Rochester.
“Myers, we’ll take a look at him right now, and he’ll probably be questionable,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said before moving on to Moulson. “He just didn’t have enough energy to play. Patty was the same way, but he tried. He just didn’t make it. A few other guys are feeling the same way.”
While winter is a common time for health setbacks, the mumps outbreak has hockey folks on edge. Any chance this is related to mumps?
“I’m not too sure,” Nolan said. “The medical team will look at that, but right now just flu-like symptoms, I guess. A few guys are feeling that way. Maybe it’s just the flu.”
The Sabres certainly got sick of their mistakes. A litany of errors – ranging from blown coverages to missed passes to poor personnel changes – dropped Buffalo to its second loss in a row. It was the first setback at home in seven games.
“The mistakes we’re making leading to our losses, it’s nothing the other teams are doing,” captain Brian Gionta said. “We’re doing it to ourselves right now.”
The Sabres trailed, 2-0, after just 7:07. Moulson’s illness played a part.
His sudden departure forced the Sabres to summon Johan Larsson from Rochester just two hours before puck drop. Larsson didn’t make it to Buffalo in time for the pregame skate, so he was probably feeling sluggish when Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson shook Larsson’s coverage on a goal from the slot with 2:23 gone.
The Sabres quickly earned a chance to get the goal back on the power play. Instead, they allowed a short-handed goal for the second game in a row and fifth time this season (tied for most in the NHL).
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov flubbed a pass sent his way, and the Avs turned toward the Buffalo zone. Ryan O’Reilly found Cody McLeod at the edge of the crease for a tap-in through the pads of Jhonas Enroth.
“The scary part is I liked our first period, except we had made a couple crucial mistakes,” Nolan said. “They capitalized on them.”
Colorado put the game away with two goals in the opening 4:32 of the third period. Alex Tanguay sent a laser into the top corner with 1:51 gone to make it 3-0. John Mitchell’s power-play goal sent the Avs toward just their second win in eight games.
“That hurts, a goal in the first two minutes of the third,” Gionta said. “We had some spurts where we had some good chances and good pressure, but at the same time just those mistakes keep hurting us.”
Buffalo outshot the Avs, 29-23, but didn’t solve goaltender Calvin Pickard until 6:33 remained. Larsson scored his first NHL goal on a cross-ice feed from Chris Stewart, making his quick drive to town worth it.
Tanguay found the empty net with 25.7 seconds play, running Colorado’s winning streak over Buffalo to eight games. The Sabres’ last victory was a 6-4 decision in Colorado on Dec. 4, 2005.
Sunday’s game in Boston will conclude the eighth of Buffalo 19 sets of back-to-back games. The Sabres are 2-6 in the opening game and 3-4 in the second.
“We’ve got a quick turnaround, a big game against Boston,” Sabres forward Tyler Ennis said. “We played well, but a couple mental errors and it ends up in the back of our net. It is disappointing. Against an offensive team like that, you can’t turn the puck over, you can’t give up short-handed goals.”