WINNIPEG -- Call it the Road Trip to Nowhere.
The Buffalo Sabres' Western sojourn to parts far and wide ended as an 0-4 disaster Tuesday night with Kyle Connor collecting two goals and an assist to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 3-1 victory in Bell MTS Place.
The Sabres fell to 29-29-8 with 66 points in 66 games. They were on a 7-3-1 run when they headed for Denver eight days ago, sitting six points out of a playoff spot and hoping to make a postseason push over the final 20 games.
Those hopes quickly faded with tough losses in Colorado and Vegas, and were essentially toasted with Saturday's collapse in Arizona. Now it remains to be seen if they can avoid another March debacle after finishing with the NHL's worst record in the season's final full month three times in the last six years.
The first returns on Tuesday were not good.
"Every time you put the jersey on, you represent the organization and the city and the fans," said defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who scored Buffalo's only goal at 10:34 of the second period. "So you at least have to play for them."
"No points here in four games. We're looking that in the eyes," said coach Ralph Krueger. "We're not happy with that. We're going home grumpy and upset but we also played some really good periods. We are a group in growth, a group with amazing fightback."
Connor put Winnipeg ahead at 13:59 of the first period by converting a Blake Wheeler feed after the puck hopped over Jake McCabe's stick at the Winnipeg blue line. Connor then threaded a pass to Tyler Poolman, who tipped the puck through Carter Hutton for a short-handed goal at 16:05 to make it 2-0. And that was pretty much that.
The Sabres were outshot, 35-26, got completely outplayed on special teams and created little traffic around Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck. They had several good scoring opportunities in the first period, but most were one-and-done chances without any convergence on the puck for rebounds.
"When we did get the puck, we just weren't winning enough battles down low," said Sam Reinhart. "We made it easy on them."
Top-line trouble: Reinhart, Jack Eichel and Victor Olofsson all failed to record a point in the four games. Eichel has matched his career high with five straight games without a point. He had six shot attempts in the game but none were on goal. Reinhart has also gone five pointless games in a row and Olofsson is at six games and counting.
Line switches: In the second period, Krueger flipped wingers on his top two lines. Newcomer Wayne Simmonds moved up with Eichel and Olofsson while Reinhart shifted down a spot with Curtis Lazar and Jeff Skinner.
"He's just trying to get us going," Reinhart said. "We're as frustrated as anybody when we're not producing the way we need to be. That's his call and we kind of need to accept that and demand more of ourselves for sure."
"I thought we got some energy out of the line changes and there was a push there," Krueger said. "Everybody seemed to be skating better and the freshness brought energy into the group but we need to score more than one goal on more than 20 really good chances. We need to find ways to get those pucks buried."
Not-so-special teams: The Sabres went 0 for 2 on the power play, leaving them 0 for 7 on the trip and 0 for 10 over the last five games. The Jets were 1 for 3 on the power play against Buffalo's 31st-ranked penalty-killing unit and burned the Sabres with the Poolman shortie.
Deeper trouble: Winnipeg took a 3-0 lead at 3:41 of the second period as Connor drove an easy rebound into an empty net. The goal came 29 seconds after Ristolainen took a tripping penalty, and the PK unit was quickly rendered ineffective after the faceoff when Zemgus Girgensons broke his stick and had to try to defend without one.
Getting on the board: Ristolainen got Buffalo's lone goal, his sixth of the season, by surprising Hellebuyck with a sweeping shot from the left circle through the goalie's legs.
Lineup moves: Colin Miller and Michael Frolik were the healthy scratches. Lawrence Pilut moved back in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 9 and played his 12th game of the season in the NHL. By getting scratched, Miller remained one game shy of 300 for his career.
McCabe gets the last word: "Quite unfathomable to be standing here after an 0-4 road trip like this, especially how good we were playing going into it. That being said, we have to grab on to the small details and just keep working every single night and keep growing this culture that Ralph has created for us here. I know we don't have quit in this group. Everyone is going to be working hard all the way to end. That's very crucial here going through March."
Next: The Sabres flew home immediately after the game and will practice Wednesday afternoon in KeyBank Center before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins there Thursday night. The next three games are against the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division, with a trip to Philadelphia on tap for Saturday night and a visit by Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals set for Monday.