After the Jets' 2-1 win at First Niagara Center, music blared and there were many happy faces in the visitors' locker room.
At the other end of the hallway, the Sabres held a closed-door meeting. When the room finally opened to the media, it was quiet and the players were somber.
The Jets have been held to two or fewer goals in each of their past six games, but that didn't prevent them from picking up two points against the Sabres as they moved out of the basement of the Eastern Conference standings.
"The first thing that it does when you win is it brings joy back in your life, which we all welcome because it's been miserable enough for a while," Jets coach Claude Noel said.
Following a homestand in which Winnipeg went 0-3-0, Noel wanted to focus on building morale and strengthening the team's mentality in tight games.
"We didn't want to go down the same path we've been for the more-than-enough-times I'd like to think about," Noel said. "I thought after that [Sabres] goal, we buckled down and did the right things. We were a little unnerved for the first five minutes of the third, but I thought we played a real solid game."
Jason Pominville scored his seventh goal of the season for the Sabres near the end of the second period.
Ondrej Pavelec got the start for the Jets, stopping 29 shots in his 200th NHL game.
"I don't think it's a number to celebrate. I am happy for every game and every game I play I try to play as hard as I can and help the team to win," Pavelec said.
Buffalo is searching for answers after losing four of their past five games. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, obviously dissatisfied with his club's effort, said he was embarrassed and that the coaching staff is going to evaluate every aspect of the roster.
"We have to take a hard look at everything is what we have to do," Ruff said. "We really do."
The players chose to address some of their concerns immediately by holding the postgame meeting.
"Everybody is frustrated a little bit in the way things have been going. I think there's no better way than to talk it out," Pominville said.
Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller made 26 saves; he has been vocal about the need for Buffalo to shore up defensively.
"We've got talent. We just have to play hard," Miller said. "It's between the ears."
The crowd at First Niagara Center expressed its displeasure with the product on the ice with a series of boos throughout the game.
"They just want you to work hard. They want you to give them something to cheer about. We've been letting them down," Miller said. "We're not playing the caliber of hockey this city deserves so, yeah, we deserve to get booed."
Winnipeg opened a five-game road trip. Over the next week, they travel to play the Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers.
Pavelec said it was good to start on the right foot.
"It's going to be a huge road trip for us and we're going to play against really tough teams," Pavelec said. "This is a tough building to play, and Buffalo is a really good team, especially [Sabres forward Thomas] Vanek. He's been unbelievable this season, so it was nice to see the guys play well against him."
Winnipeg was killing off a League-low 65.9 percent of its penalties entering the game, but killed off all three Buffalo power plays, including one with less than four minutes to play.
"You know, I think our penalty kill has been actually really good for the last five or six games," Ladd said. "We just had a couple-game stretch where they scored a lot, so we've kind of turned that around lately and it's been a big thing and it's going to be a big thing going forward."
On Little's goal to make it 1-0, Evander Kane won a battle behind the net and passed the puck out to the top of the crease. Little, unguarded, snapped it in for his third of the year.
Kane extended his point streak to four games (two goals and two assists).
Winnipeg nearly extended its lead midway through the period, but Blake Wheeler was denied when Miller reached out with the paddle of his stick along the ice and prevented the puck from crossing the goal line.
Miller later stopped Kane on a shorthanded rush with 19 seconds left.
Winnipeg made it 2-0 at 5:44 of the second period. Sabres forward Nathan Gerbe tried to clear the zone but had his pass to Pominville broken up in the middle of the ice by Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey.
Hainsey poked a pass to Ladd and the Jets captain threw a puck on goal that trickled in past Miller, who might have been screened by Sabres defenseman Alexander Sulzer. The goal was Ladd's eighth of the season, fourth in four games.
Pominville helped bring Buffalo back to life with 21.3 seconds to play in the second period to make it 2-1. Stepping over the blue line, he wristed a shot top shelf over Pavelec from 31 feet out.
The Sabres captain had been held without a point in his past six games, tying a career-high drought. Buffalo's Cody Hodgson extended his point streak to three games (two goals and one assist) with a helper on the goal.
Pavelec tracked down and caught a rocket from the point by Tyler Myers early in the third period to keep the Jets ahead.
"We didn't start skating until the third period," Ruff said. "It's true. [Our effort] should be questioned."
|John Scott Slashing against Alexander Burmistrov|
|Evander Kane Slashing against Patrick Kaleta|
|Evander Kane Roughing against Patrick Kaleta|
|Patrick Kaleta Roughing against Evander Kane|
|Dustin Byfuglien Hooking against Tyler Ennis|
|Evander Kane Hi-sticking against TJ Brennan|