NEW YORK – The numbers are seriously ridiculous.
In the last four games, the Buffalo Sabres have taken 144 shots. They've scored twice. That's a puny shooting percentage of 1.3 percent.
Every team goes through a slump, but this is off-the-charts bad.
Not surprisingly, the Sabres have lost all four games. The skid continued with a 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday, and the lone goal came on the power play with just 4:34 to play. It spared Buffalo the indignity of being blanked for the third time in one week.
The Sabres peppered rookie goaltender Alexandar Georgiev with 21 shots in the first period. As the scoring woes continued, the defensive awareness disappeared. So did any chance of winning.
"All the things we did with the puck, we did really well," coach Phil Housley said in Madison Square Garden. "But when we didn't have it, we didn't defend well. We lost coverage. Guys were beating us up the ice.
"It goes back to having that respect for our own end and our own goaltender, keeping the puck out of our net. We didn't have that kind of respect."
The Sabres looked fried when they came out for the second period. They punched themselves out in the first, and it was obvious the hope tank was low, as Rangers assistant and former Buffalo bench boss Lindy Ruff would say.
"We have these good starts, we need to put one in because we need that spark, we need that momentum," said center Ryan O'Reilly, who had four shots in the first period. "It's tough. We open the door, and teams make us pay."
The Sabres' shooting percentage has fallen to 7.4 percent, remaining at the bottom of the NHL.
"I'm going to harp on it, and I'm going to continue to harp on it: Zone One," said Housley, referring to the front of the net. "We're not getting there enough. To score in this league at this time of year at five-on-five, even strength, you have to be willing to go there, especially the first guy, and try to take the goalie's eyes.
"We're getting there, then we're rolling out. We've got to make it more miserable for the goaltenders that we're facing."
For the second time in his three seasons, Sam Reinhart is a 20-goal scorer. There wasn't much to celebrate with this milestone.
"It would have been nicer to have that one impact the game a little more," the right winger said. "It's tough. Right from the start I had to be better tonight. It's a little disappointing, but hopefully now I can just relax a little bit and get back to my game."
Reinhart tipped Kyle Okposo's shot on the Sabres' late power play, ending a slump of three games without a point. The 22-year-old has 13 goals and 30 points in his last 31 games.
The Rangers showed no mercy, so Housley did.
New York beat goaltender Robin Lehner for four goals on four shots from late in the first to midway through the second. After the fourth goal, Housley sent in backup netminder Linus Ullmark.
Lehner finished with eight saves on 12 shots in 28:23.
"I can't fault Robin on any of those goals," Housley said. "Missed coverages. Missed picking up guys. I don't think he had a chance, but four goals went in on four shots. It was just trying to save him a little bit and maybe send a message to our team."
Yes, Georgiev began envisioning his first NHL shutout.
The 22-year-old from Bulgaria was appearing in just his ninth NHL game. He'd already become the first goalie in Rangers history to make at least 30 saves in each of his first five starts. He was ready to add a blanking until Reinhart found the net with 4:34 to go.
"Of course these thoughts creep into your mind," Georgiev said. "I try to push them away, 'I have to play still this many minutes.' Hopefully, it's coming next time."
The undrafted netminder spent the previous three seasons in the Finnish elite league. He has a save percentage of .908 in 31 games in the American Hockey League this season.
He turned aside 43 of the Sabres' 44 shots.
"Even if they had many shots," Georgiev said, "the guys were really battling to not let them have many good opportunities to score."