Although they're in no danger of giving up the Eastern Conference lead just yet, the Buffalo Sabres are going through their first true rough patch of the season.
They'll look to avoid their fifth loss in seven games Monday when they visit the similarly struggling Boston Bruins, losers of six of seven.
Buffalo (31-11-3) opened the season with 10 straight wins, and its 65 points are good for a 10-point lead over Montreal in the Northeast Division and an eight-point edge over Atlanta and New Jersey for the top spot in the conference.
The Sabres, however, have dropped consecutive games for the second time this month after Saturday's 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay - their season-worst third straight home defeat. Buffalo's 170 goals lead the league, but the team has managed just two goals in four of its last five games.
The Sabres went 0-for-6 on the power play Saturday, making them 2-for-23 (8.7 percent) with the man advantage over the past four contests.
"I don't know if it's confidence or what," said forward Jason Pominville, who scored one of Buffalo's goals Saturday along with Ales Kotalik. "At the start of the year, we were winning games and found ways to come back. We're just not finding those ways right now."
Pominville's goal was his 20th, giving the Sabres a league-high four players with at least 20 this season. Buffalo also outshot Tampa Bay 34-23, but it wasn't enough top overcome a sloppy effort as giveaways led to all three Lightning goals.
"We made some poor decisions with the puck," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We've got a bad mixture now. We're not finishing and we haven't gotten the key save at the key time."
Buffalo appears to have a good chance to get back on track against a Boston club which has been outscored 35-14 in its last seven games while going 1-5-1. The Sabres have won both meetings with the Bruins this season - both at TD Banknorth Garden - against their division rivals, and have taken nine of 10 matchups since the lockout.
While Boston (20-18-4) has slumped recently, Marc Savard has continued his strong play. The center scored the Bruins' lone goal in Saturday's 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers, giving him four goals and four assists in his last four games.
"We brought it late and threw the kitchen sink at them," said Savard, who increased his team-leading point total to 56 on the season. "We've got to find answers now. We can't wait any longer."
Savard had a goal and two assists in Boston's 5-4 shootout loss to the Sabres on Nov. 2, and has recorded at least a point in 11 of his last 12 games against Buffalo dating to the start of the 2000-01 season.
Tim Thomas made 35 saves Saturday - 21 in the second period - to help keep the Bruins in the game, but suffered his fourth loss in his last five outings.
"Timmy Thomas bailed the team out," Bruins coach Dave Lewis said. "That was the best period he's played all season. He gave us a chance."
Thomas is 2-2-1 with a 3.76 goals-against average in six appearances against Buffalo.