CALGARY -- No deep analysis needed. The Buffalo Sabres lost the opener of their Western Canada trip here Thursday night because of their abysmal special teams.
The Sabres' feeble power play went 1 for 8 in the game -- and gave up a back-breaking short-handed goal to Tobias Rieder -- in a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames in Scotiabank Saddledome.
The power play managed just four shots on goal during its bunch of attempts. It failed to score on a two-man advantage that lasted 24 seconds and two other chances in the first period where a goal would have created a 2-0 lead. It also failed on another 5-on-3 chance in the third period.
The disastrous night dropped the Buffalo power play to 3 for 47 over the last 16 games. The Sabres entered Thursday 14th in the NHL for the season -- but are dead last in the league since Nov. 1.
The loss ended the Sabres' four-game point streak and foiled their chance to take over second place in the Atlantic Division as they fell to 13-11-5. The Flames (14-12-4) improved to 4-0-1 in the last five and are 3-0 under new coach Geoff Ward.
First period recap: Sam Reinhart gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead with his 10th goal of the season, a perfect tip-in of a Rasmus Ristolainen wrist shot at 3:29. Calgary tied the game on Johnny Gaudreau's power-play goal at 16:29, a wicked shot to the top corner as Zach Bogosian backed away.
The killer goal: Rieder scored on a breakaway at 11:18 of the second period after blocking Henri Jokiharju's shot at the Calgary line. Rieder beat Linus Ullmark with a backhand through the legs.
— Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) December 6, 2019
Breathing room for the hosts: Sean Monahan made it 3-1 at 15:02 of the second with a one-timer from the right circle after a neat give-and-go passing play with Mikael Backlund.
Ultimate indignity: Longtime Sabres villain Milan Lucic added the coup de grace at 3:58 of the third, capping a 3-on-1 in the offensive zone to score his first goal in 28 games with the Flames after being acquired in an offseason trade with Edmonton.
Getting closer: Jake McCabe scored with 2:44 left on a Victor Olofsson feed to pull with the Sabres within 4-2.
Eichel streak lives: Sabres captain Jack Eichel finally connected on a power play with an extra attacker on the ice with 47.4 seconds left. His point streak is now 11 games.
The lineup: The Sabres again dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Evan Rodrigues took full line rushes in warmup but sat for the sixth straight game.
UPL timeline set: The Sabres are not going to rush top goaltending prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to the AHL, and the current plan has him staying in Cincinnati of the ECHL until at least Christmas. Assistant GM Randy Sexton told reporters Wednesday in Rochester that goaltending coordinator Seamus Kotyk is closely monitoring the workload of Luukkonen, who is 6-2-1, 1.88/.925 in nine games with the Cyclones and was named ECHL Goalie of the Month on Wednesday.
"Young players have to play. It’s the only way they get better, and we are not going to rush his development. We are going to manage his development in a very methodical way," Sexton said. "Seamus has mapped out a plan to Christmas, we’ve communicated that with UPL, he’s on side with it. We’re seeing the benefits of that in much the same way as Victor Olofsson last year."
Sexton said the Sabres are being exceedingly cautious because of the nature of Luukkonen's offseason hip surgery.
"We don’t have dates circled on a calendar," Sexton said. "We don’t say, ‘He’s got to have an American League start by this date, that date.'"
Heading to World Junior tryouts: Barrie Colts forward Matej Pekar has been named to the Czech Republic camp roster for the tournament, which will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in his home country. He joins Dylan Cozens (Canada) and Erik Portillo (Sweden) as Sabres prospects heading to camps. Team USA will announce its camp roster on Monday, with Buffalo draftees Mattias Samuelsson (Western Michigan) and Ryan Johnson (Minnesota) awaiting a call to try out on defense.
New digs coming here: A few hours before faceoff, the Flames and city officials announced they had reached agreement on a new arena and the development of a cultural and entertainment district in East Victoria Park. The 19,000-seat facility will be built about a mile from the Saddledome, which opened in 1983 and is the NHL's oldest building to not be heavily renovated. Construction on the $550 million project will begin in 2021, with completion in 2024.
Next: The Sabres flew to Vancouver immediately after the game and will practice Friday at the University of British Columbia. They meet the Vancouver Canucks Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern time in Rogers Arena. They conclude the trip Sunday night in Edmonton.