CALGARY, Alberta -- The Buffalo Sabres are officially out of the moral victories business.
There was no talking about salvaging a point on the road Tuesday night following a 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames. Instead, there was anger about an opportunity lost, about two third-period leads frittered away and ultimately about some goofy officiating.
The game's climax was written at 2:26 of OT, as Sean Monahan took a pass from Johnny Gaudreau and broke in alone ahead of Ryan O'Reilly to beat Robin Lehner for the game-winning goal.
"That last goal is bad positioning there by me. I'm better than that," said a disgusted O'Reilly. "I have to make a better read to not leave 'Lenny' out to dry."
Of course, the Sabres felt Monahan shouldn't have even been on the ice at that point. A few seconds before the goal, he got the puck away from Sam Reinhart by drilling the Buffalo winger from behind into the end boards. Referee Brad Meier simply stood and watched.
"There has to be a call there," Lehner said. "He hits him from behind. It's fairly clear. We get judged day by day and I just think it was a terrible ref performance today, absolutely terrible."
Coach Dan Bylsma certainly agreed. Asked by a Calgary reporter for his view on what led to the winning goal, a stern-looking Bylsma shot back, "The cross-check in the back? That's what it looked like from where I was at."
The Reinhart play wasn't the only thing that had the Sabres miffed. Calgary's first goal, by Micheal Frolik, was originally waved off after a whistle was blown but was allowed to stand after all four officials conferenced about it. The Flames tied the game, 2-2, early in the third on Michael Ferland's backhand, which came after Marcus Foligno's pass to Josh Gorges hit the skate of referee Graham Skilliter and went right to Ferland alone in front.
"You can yell all you want but the ref has the right to be there," Foligno said. "It's a bad bounce and you just suck it up."
Officiating aside, this one is hard for the Sabres to stomach. They fell to 1-1-1 and blew a chance to get over .500 for the first time since Jan. 24, 2013, which was when they were 2-1 three games into the lockout season.
O'Reilly scored his third goal of the season on a power-play midway through the second period but had several other chances to score and failed to convert -- notably two shots as he broke in alone on former Sabre Chad Johnson in the first 35 seconds of OT.
"We were lucky to get one point really. The way we played was pathetic at times and it starts with myself," O'Reilly said. "I had so many chances, I have to bury them. That was really nothing what we wanted. We could have walked away with a win here and we have to respond now."
Lehner was spotty at times as well, even though he made 30 saves in a game his team was outshot, 34-21. Although Bylsma acknowledged the bizarre opening Calgary goal should have counted, the real issue was the fact a prone Lehner let the puck leak out under his body. Calgary's tying goal early in the third, the first NHL tally by No. 1 draft pick Matthew Tkachuk, was a short side wrist shot from close to the boards that Lehner should have stopped.
Through it all, the Sabres had a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes and went back ahead, 3-2, on Foligno's superb individual effort to elude Deryk Engelland and burn Johnson with a quick snap shot. That came at 3:49 of the third period but Tkachuk tied the game 63 seconds later.
"I was more determined the next shift and was really happy I got it back," Foligno said of his goal in the wake of his run-in with Skilliter. "The feeling in this room is we expect to win every night. Tonight is a frustrating game. Two leads in the third and to give them up is tough. It's the way the game goes but it's the mentality in this dressing room we always have to keep pushing. It's definitely different this year."
The Sabres were outshot, 5-2, in overtime and were stuck in their zone for the previous 90 seconds when Monahan scored.
"They just had a little bit more jump than we did," Lehner said. "When we kept it deep and kept grinding in certain moments of the game, it looked good. We deviated from that and they took over."
Added O'Reilly: "If we do just a few things better, play a little harder, support each other a little better, we would have been in a much better spot and denied their momentum. We had leads, had the game on our stick and could have shut the door. We relied on Lenny too much and didn't have the killer instinct. If you want a chance at making the playoffs, you have to bring that every night."