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Lehner, Sabres watch the wind leave their sails in loss

DALLAS – Robin Lehner couldn't wait to play the Dallas Stars. It was a big game for him and the team, he said Saturday morning, and he was looking forward to starting a winning streak.

He was gone after just 10:27. So was any chance the Sabres had of winning.

The goaltender gave up three goals on seven shots, then watched the rest of the Sabres' 5-1 loss.

"It's hard," Lehner said in American Airlines Center. "This is the sport, this is the life I choose. I'm pretty fortunate. At the end of the day I'm a goalie in the National Hockey League. This happens to a lot of goalies. You've just got to throw this out and go to the next game because I think we've been playing some decent hockey lately."

Lehner could include himself in that statement. He had won three of his previous four starts.

He wasn't decent against the Stars, though the team universally chalked up the misfortune to "bad bounces."

"I honestly think the guys played well," Lehner said. "It's tough to get down, 4-0, and that's unfortunate."

It took Dallas just 12:51 to take the 4-0 lead. After beating up on Lehner, the Stars scored a quick power-play goal against replacement Chad Johnson. From there, it was just a matter of watching the clock tick toward 0:00.

"If you look at our first period, some of the goals were tough ones to watch and look at because I thought our guys played really well," coach Phil Housley said. "I just thought we needed to change the goalie and maybe change the momentum. It's unfortunate.

"If I asked him if he'd want those three back, he probably would. It's one of those things he played really well in Arizona. Tonight wasn't the case."

By stopping just four of seven shots, Lehner's save percentage dropped from .905 to .896. It was the second time this season he got yanked. He left after four goals in 27 minutes against the New York Islanders in the second game of the year.

"I thought we had a pretty good start," center Jack Eichel said. "We were playing in their end, getting some opportunities, outshooting them the first period, and they just got a couple bounces and you find yourself down pretty big. It's tough to come back from that.

"We needed a big effort, and obviously it wasn't there. It's frustrating. We did a lot of good things, and we lose, 5-1."

The Wraparound: Stars 5, Sabres 1

The Sabres were down, 1-0, after 3:09. Lehner went behind the net to play the puck, and he missed defenseman Matt Tennyson with the pass. The Stars' Antoine Roussel fired from the left boards, and Remi Elie immediately pounced on the rebound at the top of the crease.

"I saw one of our D-men open, and I think we just miscommunicated a little bit," Lehner said. "He came toward me. It wasn't a misplay per se. It just ended up in the net.

"I have to be better. It's a game of mistakes. I made a mistake there, and together with a bounce and a good goal, it's down, 3-0. It's unfortunate."

The second goal came when a soft shot by Gemel Smith bounced in front of Lehner, hit his pad and caromed to wide-open Radek Faksa with 7:07 gone.

"It was going right on my stick and jumped up on me," Lehner said. "They scored on the rebound and we're down, 2-0."

The Stars poured it on from there.

"There were a couple bad bounces that took the wind out of our sails," Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly said. "We started the game with great jump. You could see guys were moving right away. We were physical, then a couple bad bounces. They happen.

"We still could make better plays in certain situations, but bad bounces took the wind out of our sails, and it was tough. It stung."

Housley tried to lessen the sting. He repeatedly praised the Sabres' effort, though he realized there would be nonbelievers after a four-goal loss dropped Buffalo to 4-8-2.

"It's easy to be negative right now, but I thought we played good," Housley said. "It was just unfortunate we got bad bounces against us.

"When I evaluate the game, I think we played well. The score tells you differently, and there's probably going to be a lot of people that disagree with me, but I think we got the start we wanted. There was some bad bounces that occurred.

"Yeah, could we have better coverage? Could we have made better decisions through the neutral zone? But that wasn't the case in my opinion."

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