There are moments in a season where a team hopes it has reached a low point and can only go up from here.
The Buffalo Sabres have to hope they reached one of those Tuesday night as their crisis deepened with a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild. An announced crowd of 15,522 in KeyBank Center saw the Sabres fall to 1-6-2 in their last nine games with the embarrassing defeat. Buffalo is 10-8-3 overall.
Zach Parise scored a pair of first-period goals for the Wild (8-11-2), who came into the game last in the NHL's overall standing and just 3-10 on the road. Backup goaltender Alex Stalock came within 3:49 of a shutout before Brandon Montour scored with Linus Ullmark on the bench in favor of an extra attacker.
Buffalo's frustration clearly reached a breaking point at the 7:32 mark of the second period when captain Jack Eichel dropped his gloves and started pounding away at Minnesota's Joel Eriksson Ek in the corner after an innocuous check. Eichel got a double minor for roughing instead of his first NHL fighting major while Eriksson Ek did not get a penalty.
Jack Eichel drops the gloves with Joel Eriksson Ek pic.twitter.com/S2eBoZOt7h
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) November 20, 2019
Offensive offense: The Montour goal ended a string of five straight goals by Eichel over the last three games.
Opening salvo: Parise was in the penalty box for goaltender interference at 4:55 of the first period but burst out of the box and immediately got on the scoresheet at 7:14 when he banged home a nifty backhand pass from Eriksson Ek on a 2-on-1 break. The Wild got going after a Casey Mittelstadt turnover and Jake McCabe was caught up ice.
Late disaster: Parise made it 2-0 at 19:56 of the period by tipping in a Ryan Suter shot from the left point, marking the sixth straight game the Sabres have given up a power-play goal.
After further review: The Wild made it 3-0 when Jonas Brodin leaked in from the left point behind Conor Sheary and beat Ullmark with a backhand for his first goal of the season after a neat pass from Jason Zucker. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger challenged the goal for offside and appeared to have a point with defenseman Matt Dumba inside the zone. But the play was ruled legal under Rule 83.3, with all Minnesota players apparently tagging up legally before the puck entered the zone.
Bad history: Zucker's empty net goal with 2:14 left sealed the verdict as the Sabres fell to 3-9-1 at home vs. Minnesota all-time. The loss prevented Buffalo from earning its first three-game overall win streak against the Wild since they entered the NHL in 2000.
Wild getting better: Minnesota is 7-5-2 in its last 14 games but has been chasing the season since opening it 0-4 and 1-6. Major issues? The Wild is 0-6-1 within the Central Division and starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk continues to struggle (3.36 GAA/.893 save percentage)
Next: The Sabres practice here Wednesday before opening a three-game road trip Thursday in Boston. They play Saturday in Florida and Sunday in Tampa Bay before the next home game Nov. 27 against Calgary.