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Missed breakaway leads to more breakdowns for the Sabres

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It wasn't so much the fact that Ryan O'Reilly failed to cash in on a breakaway in the second period.

It was the way the team reacted.

The mental toughness dipped for the Buffalo Sabres after Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky turned the puck away with his pad, preserving a 1-0 lead for the Blue Jackets with 12:41 left in the second period.

With their goaltender turning away shots, and the Sabres had 35 of them, the Blue Jackets used speed and grittiness to set up plays and crash the net. Columbus scored three times in a span of 2:59 near the end of the second to take a commanding lead and control of the game.

By the final horn, the Sabres had dropped a 5-1 decision to the Blue Jackets in Nationwide Arena.

At the time of the breakaway, the Blue Jackets were nursing a 1-0 lead off a first-period power-play goal from Oliver Bjorkstrand. Then came the stop from Bobrovsky and suddenly the Sabres got away from their game plan.

"I don’t think it was a sense of frustration, I think it's just how do you react to that, right?" Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We understand it's a big turning point. Could have been a tie game right there. But how do you react from that point moving forward, the mental toughness of that? We just lost that little bit of discipline in our game to stay with it."

But oh, it was a sense of frustration for O'Reilly, who has three goals in 11 games and expects more out of himself offensively.

First, there was what happened on the breakaway itself.

Bobrovsky "made a good save," O'Reilly said. "I don't think I made a good enough move. I think it's something I've got to sell and I think I had more time than I thought. I tried to rush it. It's, you know, I’m supposed to be one of the guys contributing offensively and I'm not."

But it was what happened after the missed opportunity that perhaps was the most telling part of the game.

"You know I think myself, I missed that breakaway and I've got to find a way to put the puck in the net," O'Reilly said. "Then I get frustrated, make a mistake, missed my check on the forecheck ... get beat up ice for an odd-man rush and give them another goal and took the wind out of our sails. You know, I can't look at anyone else but myself and it's frustrating."

The frustration came from being unable to solve Bobrovsky, who was pitching a shutout until Seth Griffith scored his first goal with the Sabres, and ninth of his NHL career, with 2:34 left in the game. With that goal, the Sabres have netted two in their last six periods of hockey.

"I think we got frustrated, I did for sure, that we weren't scoring goals," O'Reilly said. "We had some opportunities that didn't go in and forced us to deviate and try different things. They just rolled wave after wave at us. We tightened up. We started to get tense and you could just see guys were getting back in that mindset where we don’t want the puck and it's tough. We were playing uphill then."

It was a good first period for the Sabres, despite the fact they trailed, 1-0. They held a 14-9 advantage in shots and had several good opportunities, playing their game against a Columbus team that's off to a 6-3-0 start.

"We're down 1-0 and I thought we were playing really well and getting some looks," Housley said. "The thing I would say in the first period is we didn't challenge Bobrovsky enough. Just getting in front of him and taking his vision away. Good goalies in this league, especially him, are going to make the stop.

"Second period, you know we get that breakaway, it's unfortunate we didn't tie it up," Housley said. "I think it would have been a big turning point for us but we got away from what made us successful in the first period. We're dipping in with our high forward and they're coming out and beating us up the ice and they're getting four-on-twos. We can't survive like that. Good teams, they don't beat themselves or they don't crack. Even being down one, we were playing well. We shouldn't have gotten away from our game plan. Because of it, we get a little cheat in our game and it ends up in the back of our net."

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