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A much better showing but same frustrating result for Sabres

This one is going to be all about your perspective.

The party line in the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room after Saturday's 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders was that it was a step in the right direction, a tightening up of a structure that had gone awry in recent games and a big bounceback from Friday's dismantling in Washington.

But on the other hand, you could sense the uneasiness in the sellout crowd of 19,070 on '70s Night in KeyBank Center. The fans wanted to believe after this team's 8-1-1 start, but they got burned so badly by last year's collapse that they're not fully buying in this time.

And their fears are starting to rise as the Sabres are 1-3-1 in their last five games, scoring just seven goals in them. Buffalo has dropped two straight in regulation for the first time and this was its first home regulation loss of the year (5-1-1). The Sabres also endured their first shutout of the season at the hands of Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who made 27 saves.

The fans won't see the team at home again until Nov. 14, and there will likely be plenty of soul searching done on that long plane ride to Sweden on Sunday night for next weekend's two-game set against Tampa Bay in Stockholm.

"There's no reason to start panicking or anything. We're playing good teams," insisted center Marcus Johansson. "It wouldn't be fun if you won them all."

Johansson was joking, just for the record. But his point was clear: Every team faces adversity through a season and this is the first real dose of it for the Sabres under Ralph Krueger.

"That was definitely our goal today, to feel our game again after letting it slip (in Washington) and a bit against Arizona," Krueger said. "We were pleased with the reaction of the group as far as the way they entered this game. Overall it's closer to the kind of team we want to be.

"It's painful right now but I think there's a lot of things there we can continue to build on."

The Sabres outshot the Islanders, 21-11, over the final two periods including 11-4 in the third. They had 19 more attempts in the game (58-39) but the Isles had 14 blocks and 17 other Buffalo shots missed the net or found iron behind Varlamov.

"It's not like we played a poor team game and they outplayed us," said captain Jack Eichel, who had a team-high five shots on goal. "I didn't see it that way. I thought we came back after maybe our worst game of the year last night and competed hard."

"We were physical, hungry on pucks and our forecheck was really good," said defenseman Colin Miller. "When we're connected as five guys, that's when we're hard to play against."

Krueger tried shuffling his lines but didn't get much impact as Jimmy Vesey had just one shot on goal while playing with Eichel and neither Victor Olofsson nor Jeff Skinner had a shot while playing with Johansson.

"We've been really true to our lines and just felt a little refreshment could give us some energy in the offense," Krueger said. "It didn't quite work out today but sometimes when you get new linemates, you trust the system and the principles in play a little bit more."

The Sabres got a bad break on the game's only goal, as Derick Brassard's pass from behind the net deflected off Miller's stick behind Hutton at 5:19 of the first period. And that was that as the red-hot Islanders won their ninth straight game for the first time since 1990.

"I’m on my post and he goes to center it, and it hits off Miller and it redirects off like the top of my pad and in," Hutton said. "Just kind of like I’m going to look out into the slot, it redirects and bounces in. Obviously, an unfortunate break."

Hutton otherwise made several good saves in the game as he stopped 20 of 21 shots. His season number continue to be strong (6-2-1, 2.09/.928).

"One little bounce. It happens," Miller said. "Things aren't 100 percent going our way right now but there's still positives to take from that game too. I thought we played well. It's frustrating that we lost that one but we'll move on."

 

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