Tyler Ennis was frustrated, and it was time for his stick to pay the price. After another power-play turnover, he skated to the bench and took a tomahawk chop that broke his lumber on the boards.
He showed what the Sabres were feeling.
Buffalo’s power play failed to find the net for the sixth straight game Monday and looked particularly bad in the process. The frustration carried over into the rest of the game and was the key factor in a 2-0 loss to Washington.
“It set in with the power-play opportunities that we had and squandered,” coach Dan Bylsma said in First Niagara Center. “It was a big part of the game. We had the three power plays, easily could have used them to get back in the game in the second period. The execution and the ability to score wasn’t there, and I think there was some frustration in our team.”
The power play was Buffalo’s primary weapon when it arrived in Detroit on Dec. 14. The Sabres ranked second in the NHL with a 23.4 percent success rate as they cashed in on 22 of their opening 94 opportunities.
They are 0 for 17 in the last six games, dropping to ninth overall at 20.4 percent.
“Our power play early on was a difference maker for us,” defenseman Cody Franson said. “We were able to stay in games or go ahead in games with our power play. Power plays come in waves sometimes, and right now for us we have to focus on the positives, face the adversity head on and keep moving forward.
“It’s not clicking the way we like it. That goes to lack of execution for the most part. Our entries is kind of what’s been hindering us a little bit, something we’ve got to focus on. I think we’re doing some good things but definitely not enough.”
The Sabres managed just two shots on three power plays against the Capitals. They couldn’t shoot because they couldn’t get into the zone. Ennis had an especially rough night, repeatedly trying to stickhandle through defenders only to see the puck sent the other way.
“When it’s not going my way, sometimes I try to make it all happen myself,” said Ennis, who has a 13-game scoring drought. “I was frustrated after I turned that one over, but we’ll move on. I’ll move on.
“It’s only been a couple weeks and we were rolling pretty good. Things happen fast in the league. We have a few games here where we put a few goals in, and we’re right back to where we were.”
The Sabres will need to get right against one of the league’s top short-handed units. Washington’s penalty kill is clicking at 85.1 percent, which ranks fifth in the NHL. The Capitals host Buffalo on Wednesday in the closing game of the back-to-back series.
“Tonight obviously wasn’t one of our stronger games on the power play,” said left wing Evander Kane, who played while Buffalo police continued a sex-offense investigation that began Sunday. “Too much one-on-one type stuff, especially on our breakouts. That’s something we can’t have happen where we get frustrated out there. We have to stick with our game play on the power play and execute.”
One of the Sabres’ best traits is their ability to stick with the game plan even when facing adversity. The togetherness crashed Monday night along with Ennis’ stick.
“It’s a long year, so you’re going to go a couple games where things aren’t going as well in a certain aspect,” right wing Sam Reinhart said. “Right now it’s the power play. We’re trying to get back to what gave us success through November and December. I think that’s keeping it simple, using each other a little bit more on entries.
“There’s going to be times where you’re not going to be able to score no matter what the reason is. I think as quick as we can correct that and find the back of the net, the better off we’ll be.”