The Buffalo Sabres apparently couldn't stand prosperity. Imagine that.
Two wins in a row — two whole wins in a row — seemingly had a team that was the worst in the NHL last year feeling a little fat about itself.
Kyle Okposo said he saw it in practice on Wednesday. There was sloppiness, not much attention to detail. It carried over. Thursday's 6-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche before 15,396 in KeyBank Center looked much the same.
"That's on all of us. It's on me for seeing it and not saying something before the game," Okposo said. "You could see it coming. It was just not being ready to go. We weren't engaged early. They were. We weren't making passes. We iced the puck a bunch and we weren't ready to go."
"Obviously, they got on us and we probably weren’t ready to play and that’s on us," said captain Jack Eichel. "They came out hard and I thought they outworked us for the first bit there. We put ourselves behind the eight ball. … It’s tough when you’re letting their best players feel-the puck that much early in the game."
The Avalanche scored three times in the final nine minutes of the first period to put the Sabres in a 3-0 hole and that was pretty much that. Nathan MacKinnon had two goals to lead the way, giving him five in the season's first four games as the Avs improved to 3-1.
The Sabres went 0 for 7 on the power play, sabotaging a game that saw them post an edge in both shots on goal (31-30) and shot attempts (58-43). A couple of the chances were good, with plenty of zone time and possession. Several of them were not.
"I didn't like our practice yesterday. I just thought it was sloppy," Okposo said. "It was a lot like how we played the first period. We weren't crisp. All year, we've been really dialed in and really ready to go. Everybody has been focused on what they need to do and tonight, it just was feeling a little bit good about ourselves I think."
"It's tough to say that you can lose games in practice but he's got a point," said defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who scored the only Buffalo goal. "We weren't executing very well yesterday and it seemed to kind of carry into today. Our legs were heavy and we just didn't execute and there's really no excuse for it."
The Sabres finished their season-opening homestand with a 2-2 record. Not bad if you looked at it from the start, but a disappointment when a chance for the first three-game winning streak at home in nearly 21 months was frittered away.
And especially tough to stomach knowing a five-game Western road swing is looming, starting Saturday night in Arizona.
"In my experiences sometimes, it's the grind of winning," said goalie Carter Hutton. "It's not easy. It doesn't just come. You have to learn and embrace that grind. It's something we will. We have a really good group in here. I think we'll take pride in coming in here tomorrow, going back to work and taking it on the road."
"It's hard to win in this league and every shift is important," said coach Phil Housley. "How you prepare is important. We still have a team that's learning to win. If there's anything we can take out of it, it's that we can't take anything for granted and everybody has got to be pulling on the rope each and every day. It was a good, valuable lesson to learn tonight."
No doubt the Sabres had some tough breaks in the game. The power play had up-and-down moments but still managed 13 shots on goal. Okposo scored with 21.5 seconds late in the first period but the goal was wiped out on goalie interference.
"I don't even know how it went in. I don't think me being there really affected it but they did," Okposo said.
With the score 3-1 late in the second period, MacKinnon scored 28 seconds after Beaulieu's goal when Marco Scandella's pass hit an official and created a turnover. The Sabres were toast after that.
"We're a young team and we've got to learn how to win," Hutton said. "It's not easy, right? The good teams win a few and come harder. We've got to learn from it and bounce back. At the end of the day if we lose 10-1 or 20-1, it's one game. It stings obviously in the moment but we have to get back to work here. We have a lot of hockey coming up and can't let this one hang over us."