The postgame interviews were understandably filled with disappointment. The Buffalo Sabres felt they should have done just a bit more to leave Colorado with two points, or at least get to overtime to salvage one point.
A shot that bounced off Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk and past goalie Robin Lehner with just 32 seconds left in regulation left the Sabres glum with a 2-1 loss to the Avalanche on Wednesday night.
But the team returns to Buffalo to host the Detroit Red Wings on Friday (7 p.m., First Niagara Center) with a solid special teams foundation.
The Sabres have power-play goals in three straight games and seven of their last 10. The penalty killing unit is on an 18-for-19 run.
The Sabres did not practice on Thursday, arriving back in Buffalo in the early morning after dropping the heartbreaker to the Avs.
The scoring started with another power-play tally for the Sabres – their fourth in their last three games. It was Evander Kane who struck in the second period to give the Sabres the 1-0 lead but the highlight was the work of the five-man unit. Jamie McGinn passed to Rasmus Ristolainen at the point. Ristolainen moved the puck to Ryan O’Reilly, who hit Jack Eichel with a quick pass in the slot. Eichel passed to Kane, who had a quick wrist shot for the goal.
On Thursday morning, Buffalo’s power play ranked seventh in the NHL, clicking at 20.8 percent.
“We’re getting good zone time,” Kane said. “We’re getting lots of opportunities and even when we don’t score on the power play it seems that we’re generating quite a bit. The power play has been for us as of late and that’s going to be a key moving forward here.”
The penalty kill has been a key for the Sabres as well, although potential momentum gained from killing off a four-minute high sticking call against Kane in the third against the Avs turned disastrous instead.
The Sabres killed off the double minor, holding Colorado to just four shots over those four minutes.
Good stuff. Until 32 seconds after the penalty expired when Alex Tanguay scored to tie the game, 1-1.
“I thought we were going to steal the momentum of the game with the kill,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “We killed off the four minutes. It was a crucial part of the game and we hadn’t recovered yet. We still hadn’t recovered. Guy came back on the ice, he went down low, we still hadn’t gotten those guys off the ice from the kill and they took advantage.”
“Tough getting that four-minute penalty kill,” O’Reilly said. “It was tough to come back from that. We kill it off, we’re exhausted and then they score. It’s just tough to get that momentum back. We did a good job of getting the kill and trying to save gas to hold them off, but four minutes is never easy.”
Since the Sabres were off on Thursday there was no update on Sam Reinhart, who left the game with an upper body injury. Bylsma had said Reinhart would be evaluated in Buffalo and had no indication of how much time, if any, the rookie forward may miss.
The Detroit Red Wings, meanwhile, come to town on a two-game losing streak with an offense that’s having trouble scoring. The Red Wings have scored just once in their past two games. But their 2-1 loss to St. Louis in Detroit on Wednesday featured a power-play goal, a 3-for-3 effort on the penalty kill and 30 shots on goal.
“We’ve got to keep playing the way we played tonight,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said after Wednesday’s loss. “We’ve got to keep defending well and we’ve got to find a way to score a little more. We had 30 shots against a real good team. I try to take emotion out of it as best as you can. Everyone is frustrated. You want to score. You want to win. I thought there was lots of our process that was good.”
The Red Wings will be without Brad Richards, who went home for two days to attend his grandfather’s funeral.