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Late comeback in OT loss to Golden Knights is teachable moment for Sabres

LAS VEGAS -- For most of the night, this one came under the heading of What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.

The Buffalo Sabres were best advised to leave this trashy performance out West and not bring it home with them. They were in a 4-1 hole midway through the third period and had been thoroughly outplayed by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

But boosted by their power play, the Sabres suddenly woke up.

Ryan O'Reilly scored on a 5-on-3 with exactly 10 minutes left. Sam Reinhart added another power play goal with 1:58 to go to make things interesing. And then Evander Kane tied the game by batting a puck out of mid-air with 8.9 seconds left in regulation.

The Sabres ended up with just one point, as Vegas won the game, 5-4, on David Perron's goal with 1:08 left in overtime. Still, Buffalo can use the final 10 minutes of regulation as a teachable moment.

The passion and the full-out skating the Sabres showed in that stretch should be how they play all the time.

"We fought to the end, which is great, but I don't feel we deserved to win that game," said coach Phil Housley. "I just think it's a mindset. It's how you approach it. We can't keep chasing games right now. We have to be ready to start the game and have that aggression in the first period. We've had it at times. We had it in Anaheim but we lacked it tonight."

The Sabres finished the road trip 1-2-1, winning only with Sunday's solid 3-1 triumph over the Ducks. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights' stunning start to the season continues.

Vegas is 5-1 and atop with the Western Conference, matching the 1917-18 Montreal Canadiens for the best start to an inaugural season in the NHL. In fact, the Golden Knights are just one point behind Tampa Bay for the best record in the entire league.

Buffalo's big comeback came largely out of nowhere. The power play got the job done in the game, going for 3 for 5 after entering it 2 for 22 with no goals on the road. And Kane's tying tally came with goaltender Chad Johnson on the bench for an extra attacker.

"I saw a bouncing puck in the air and I wanted to get some contact on it," said Kane, who had a three-point night. "The hand-eye coordination worked.

"We just played the way we need to play. Unfortunately it took until the third period to get in the right mindset as a group, to put pucks on net, to forecheck with five, to get our 'D' to get aggressive."

Until the late rally, the Sabres didn't have much of anything going. Jack Eichel had no shots on goal in the first 45 minutes and just one over the first 52 minutes. He finished with four. Rasmus Ristolainen had nine shots -- but none of them found the net.

"There wasn't much thinking involved there," O'Reilly said. "Everyone just had the mindset, 'OK, I'm going to be the guy to score the goal.' It changes a lot of things. You start to get bounces and little things start to go your way."

Vegas was burying the Sabres with its speed game, getting a goal and an assist from Reilly Smith. In OT, Eichel was just getting back into the play after fetching his stray stick. Neither O'Reilly nor Ristolainen closed on Perron and the veteran made no mistake on his laser to the top corner to give Vegas a win in the first OT home game in its history.

Despite the comeback, Housley was more agitated after this one than after any game this season. He gave his players a day off here Monday so they could save their legs. With all the travel on this trip, they needed a mental break more than anything else. Housley said practice wouldn't have helped.

"I think it's just unacceptable the way we approached the game,," Housley said. "We had a chance to build on something and I know this is a process but the process was a little broken tonight. The lack of preparation, accountability and urgency to start the game the way we finished was lacking."

"It was a difficult game right from the start to the end there," Johnson said. "I thought we did a good job battling back. We stuck with it. Regardless of the score, we kept pushing."

Johnson had no chance on any of the goals, particularly the laser-like OT winner by Perron.

"I know he's got a good shot so I'm trying to be patient," Johnson said. "He made a good move to the slot. He kind of ripped it by me there. I was disappointed obviously. I want to make that save."

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