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Housley lets Sabres have it after another bad loss

Phil Housley opened his mouth, and he shot darts instead of words. Each one was a bull's-eye, bluntly striking its target.

The Buffalo Sabres coach aimed at his goaltenders first. Down they went.

He moved on to the skaters. The sharp points stuck straight in their chest.

After a 7-4 loss to Winnipeg dropped the Sabres to 10-24-9, Housley had clearly seen enough.

"There's a lot of cheat in our game," he said Tuesday in KeyBank Center. "They think that points are more important than playing solid defense, and you can see the results that are coming."

The results are ridiculously bad. Buffalo is on a 0-4-1 skid and has won just five of the last 28 games.

What's worse is the last-place team appears to be regressing. The seven goals allowed were the most this season.

"The thing for me ā€“ and it's very evident and I continue to talk about it ā€“ is our lack of respect and urgency playing defense," Housley said. "That's not only in the defensive zone. That starts in the offensive zone, sensing possession that's going to be in question, have a total urgency to get back. And we sit and wait at times. We're hoping that somebody's going to make a play.

"We don't get back, and then their D are ahead of us. That's where it starts, and then it gets back into our defensive zone. There's going to be times where you're going to have to sustain some defensive-zone pressure from other teams, but it's just having that urgency to kill a play, to suck it up and play solid defense."

Instead of defense, the Sabres chose to play an offensive style against one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL.

"They made us pay," center Jack Eichel said.

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It didn't help that goalie Robin Lehner had one of his worst outings and Chad Johnson couldn't stop the bleeding. Lehner got caught looking the wrong way around a screen on the opening goal. He never picked up the second, a dagger that came 49 seconds after Eichel made it 1-1.

"We've just got to get some saves at that point," Housley said.

When the Jets fired over Lehner's glove just 1:26 into the third period, he was off to the bench. The Sabres were in a 3-1 hole that soon became 5-1.

"I screw up on the first goal," Lehner said. "That's not goals that I usually let in there. I've got to be better. I've got to be better. It wasn't a great game for me.

"I take responsibility for this."

The goalie took the bullet for this game. There will be plenty to go around if the Sabres don't start showing some semblance of team play.

"We've got to take strides," Lehner said. "We've got to do things better as a team here. I'll look at myself in the mirror first. This wasn't good enough for me today, but we've got to pay more attention to detail in our end. It's starting to go back a little bit. We made strides over a period of time there. In our end, we've just got to be better.

"It's very frustrating. It must be very frustrating for the fans of Buffalo."

Housley bemoaned the Sabres' inability to win for the fans. Buffalo fell to 5-11-3 at home, and it hosts the playoff-ready Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

"All four lines, all D and both goalies probably want to get better, myself included," said Eichel.

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In addition to help on the ice, the Sabres could use help in the confidence department. The string of losses has hurt as much as the two power-play goals and numerous point-blank chances.

"We had a tough road trip," Eichel said of the past week. "You go 0-3. You get zero points, and you feel like you're playing good hockey for a while before that.

"It's definitely tough."

It won't get easier when the Sabres return to practice Wednesday. Housley plans to put visuals and sweat along with his sharp-tongued words.

"There's some holes that we have to fix," Housley said. "It'll be evident tomorrow when we get back here to work. We're going to learn from it. We're going to show them, and we'll get back on the ice and try to improve that area of our game."

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