ANAHEIM - For a Buffalo Sabres team in search of its first win, they sure caught Anaheim at the right time.
The Ducks, bruised and battered with a flurry of injuries to their regulars, went a second straight game without an even-strength goal in falling to the Sabres 3-1 at Honda Center. Buffalo, playing its third game in California in four days, improved to 1-4-1 on the young season while Anaheim dropped to 2-3-1.
Already having played every game without Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Ryan Miller due to long-term injuries, the Ducks also were missing Ryan Getzlaf and Patrick Eaves this evening (both with lower-body injuries).
"Maybe we're squeezing our sticks a little too tight," said Ducks forward Chris Wagner, who had Anaheim's only goal. "It's not fun playing from behind.
"We're just not mentally there, I guess. We've been struggling a bit. We've talked about it, but we have to go out there and execute night in, night out."
Buffalo got on top quickly in this one when goalie John Gibson couldn't corral the puck after a save and Justin Bailey swept in a backhand just 1:26 into the opening frame.
The Ducks continued to struggle on the power play - extending their drought to 0 for the last 21 - but they did ultimately tie the game shorthanded late in the second period. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen turned the puck over at the blue line and Antoine Vermette dove to bump the puck ahead to Wagner, who tucked in a backhand on the breakaway.
Video: BUF@ANA: Wagner goes five-hole for shorthanded goal
Buffalo went back in front with 31.3 seconds left in the period on a fluky goal right off a faceoff, as the puck caromed off defenseman Cam Fowler and got behind Gibson. On a night when not much went right for Anaheim, it was fitting that ended up the game-winner.
"That's the way it's going," Gibson said. "If we're not scoring, we have to be better defensively. I have to be better. When it's not going good, that's the way the bounces are. You saw that on the second goal. A shot that's not going really going toward the net. That's the way it is."
The Ducks had some chances to tie it fall by the wayside, most noticeably when Logan Shaw had the puck bounce to his stick with a yawning net in front of him, but he pushed it wide.
Anaheim sent Gibson to the bench for an extra attacker with just under two minutes left, but only managed to dodge a couple of empty-net chances by Buffalo before Johan Larsson eventually scored from near the red line to put the game away.
"These games right now seem to be played in parts," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We haven't been able to put together 60 minutes. You can tell we're starting to squeeze the sticks. Loose pucks up for grabs, instead of calmly making a play or corralling the puck, we're slapping it away and throwing it away from ourselves. Usually that's a sign of confidence. That's the one thing we have to try and correct."
Anaheim, in the midst of having six of the season's first seven games at home, next plays Friday night vs. Montreal at Honda Center.