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Pride, wins lacking as Sabres' season-opening stumble continues

Eight games. It took Marco Scandella only eight games to learn what Sabres fans have been saying for years.

"We need more pride in this dressing room," the defenseman said Friday night.

Scandella sincerely meant it. The offseason acquisition was clearly embarrassed by the 4-2 loss to Vancouver, a defeat that was way worse than the score would indicate. He shuffled and looked away, pained to be part of the discussion.

"We've got to figure this out," Scandella said in KeyBank Center. "That's unacceptable. The product we put on the ice tonight is just ... disappointing."

There are, of course, words other than the one Scandella settled on. Sabres fans have heard them all. They've been said ad nauseum by an organization that has missed the playoffs 11 of the past 15 years. They've been uttered continuously by the current group.

Yet here they are again, watching opponents skate past them while mistakes pile up. The Sabres scored in the opening minute, then watched the Canucks' shot advantage grow to 12-1 to 15-2 to 23-7 to 30-9 to 36-10. Vancouver finished with a 41-22 cushion.

The uglier number is 1-5-2. That's the Sabres' record, barely better than the tank years. Buffalo started 1-6-1 in 2013-14 and 1-7 in 2014-15.

"That was gross," right wing Kyle Okposo said. "We didn't come out ready to play. That's what we had stressed. That's what we had talked about, and we didn't do it. We didn't execute, and that's on us.

"We've got to win some hockey games here because this isn't that much fun."

Watch Jack Eichel go end-to-end and between defender's legs for goal

Okposo had less fun than anyone. The alternate captain – in the second season of a seven-year, $42 million contract – was sentenced to spectator by coach Phil Housley. Okposo skated just 11 seconds during the final 12:23 of the second period and got only one shift during the third despite Buffalo trailing by one.

"I've just got to play better. Plain and simple," said Okposo, who has no goals, one assist and a minus-7 rating in six games. "I haven't really liked my game up to this point. I seem to be thinking a lot. I've just got to settle down and make some plays. I've played in this league a long time. I know I can do it. I can make some plays, and I've got to go out there and prove it.

"It's not fun. I just have to be better. I've got to be better. I've got to play better. I've just got to make some plays, move my feet, do the things that I know how to do that make me a good hockey player. I've got to look at myself, and I've got to get going.

"I've got to prove that I can play."

Said Housley: "Kyle's got to get his feet moving. I just went with the guys that I thought we were going to have success with."

It would be one thing if Okposo was the only problem. But Buffalo gave up its sixth short-handed goal, yet another two-on-one after Nathan Beaulieu got beat pinching and Matt Tennyson failed to close down the odd-man rush.

Puck management team-wide was also an issue, forcing the Sabres to chase the Canucks.

Even what seemed like an obvious replay review went against Buffalo. It happened to be the tiebreaking goal midway through the second period.

Vancouver's Jake Virtanen was past the blue line without the puck on his stick prior to a goal by Daniel Sedin, yet the NHL denied the coach's challenge by saying Virtanen had possession.

"I disagree with the call – totally," Housley said. "He knocks the puck out of the air. He never has possession. If you call that possession, then as long as I've been in the league it's a different answer or explanation than they gave.

"I'd call that 10 out of 10 times offside, and I'd continue to challenge that again."

Few would challenge Scandella's comments about the game as a whole.

"It's unacceptable," he said. "We weren't ready to play. You can't do that at home especially. We've got to come out harder, for sure. This is disappointing."

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