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Sabres fall to Oilers

EDMONTON, Alberta – The Buffalo Sabres are well on their way to the worst record in the National Hockey League and the best odds in the draft lottery. But a new question now develops from Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the battle of the league’s bottom two teams.

When are the Sabres actually going to win another game?

The mistake-ridden Blue and Gold has now lost 13 straight games in regulation, the longest losing streak in the league since 2003. And history is beckoning: The all-time record is 17 and it was set by a pair of expansion teams, the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and 1991-92 San Jose Sharks.

The Sabres get no rest after their latest defeat, as they play the Vancouver Canucks tonight in Rogers Arena. Longtime Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller is scheduled to start for Vancouver. If Buffalo hits loss No. 14, it would mark the first pointless month of more than eight games in franchise history. The Sabres are 0-11 in January.

The usual Rexall Place sellout crowd of 16,839 saw Tyler Myers give Buffalo a 1-0 lead just 2:22 into the game, marking the fourth straight time the Sabres have scored the first goal. They have lost all four.

Myers was knocked from the game in the final five minutes after taking a Matt Fraser shot on his left ankle.

The Sabres had no answer for Anton Lander, Edmonton’s fourth-line center. He entered the game with no goals and four assists on the season but burned Buffalo with his first goal and added a pair of assists.

Edmonton took the lead for good when Fraser and Oscar Klefbom scored in a 2½-minute span of the first period.

If you need a capsule summary at what a punchline the Sabres have become, look no further than a 30-second sequence in the third period that produced Edmonton’s third goal.

Benoit Pouliot got a clear breakaway from the red line in on Jhonas Enroth but the Buffalo goaltender, one of the few players up to the task Thursday, stoned him on the backhand. The Sabres got the puck out of the zone and up the ice but soon got into scramble mode and were caught on a brutal line change.

Edmonton broke back up ice on a 2-on-0 break and Lander had a tap-in on a Teddy Purcell feed at 7:52. Bad changes were a notable problem in this one contributing to the last two Edmonton goals and a couple of other scoring chances.

Want another example? Rasmus Ristolainen got Buffalo within a goal by pounding home a Brian Gionta rebound with 2:02 left. The Sabres quickly pulled Enroth trying to get the tying goal but struggled to keep possession of the puck and Mike Weber took a holding penalty at center ice 30 seconds later. They had one last gasp in the final five seconds but Ben Scrivens stopped Gionta to preserve the win.

The Sabres had won four straight here and outscored the Oilers, 20-6, in those games. Their last loss here had been on Oct. 16, 2003. But this is looking like the worst Buffalo club ever. The Sabres are 1-16-1 in their last 18 games and 0-12-1 in their last 13 on the road since winning in a shootout at Montreal on Nov. 29.

This was a game that generated a lot of buzz the day before as the Sabres were in town practicing. The draft implications, of course, were huge even though both teams still have 33 games left. It turned out to be pretty much a snoozer. Or about what you would expect when team No. 29 meets team No. 30.

The Sabres, as usual, committed their requisite number of turnovers to help create goals against.

On the first goal, Matt Ellis was stripped of the puck in the corner behind the net by Luke Gazdic and Rasmus Ristolainen wandered from the front to leave Fraser open to take a neat pass from Anton Lander and beat Enroth at 12:27.

On the second goal, the 6-foot-8 Myers got pushed off the puck by the 6-foot Lander. The Edmonton forward took possession, cycled behind the net to the goal line and fed Oscar Klefbom for a bullet one-timer from the left circle at 15:02. Cody Hodgson was stuck in no-man’s land and screened Enroth.

The Myers goal came after some good work down low by Torrey Mitchell and Gionta. Mitchell fished the puck out to the right of Scrivens and found a charging Myers, coming through the right circle. Myers pounded the diagonal pass home as Scrivens was late sliding to his left.

Under new coach Todd Nelson, the Oilers have been rejuvenated. They are 6-5-2 and that includes notable wins over Los Angeles, Chicago, the New York Islanders and Washington. They don’t look like a team that will finish in the race for the top pick and the right to pick Connor McDavid.

Obviously, the Sabres do.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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