-- A season that began with so much hope and promise ended for the Buffalo Sabres
in disappointment and heartbreak.
Their 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers
on Thursday ended any hope of sneaking into the playoffs.
"It's not fun," said goalie Ryan Miller
, who made 33 saves in the loss, "but we did it to ourselves well before this game. We didn't put ourselves in a strong position to make the playoffs so we had to chase. Not a good feeling. Pretty embarrassing."
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After the Sabres spent big on free agents Ville Leino
and Christian Ehrhoff
and traded for defenseman Robyn Regehr
, and with a world-class goalie in Miller, many viewed Buffalo as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
But Leino, who scored the Sabres' lone goal Thursday, has just eight goals in 70 games. Miller was inconsistent for most of the first half of the season and a tidal wave of injuries saw them play the last four games without their top two defensemen, Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers
It still seemed good enough, however, leading 1-0 after two periods against the Flyers on Thursday. But the Flyers tied the game six minutes into the third, and Matt Read
scored on a breakaway with 4:21 left to win it for Philadelphia.
"We had our one goal, we had the lead all the way to the end," Leino said. "I guess that's all our season there -- we're winning and then a couple stupid mistakes and that's why we lose the game."
The Sabres were in position to grab a playoff spot thanks to a strong run the last six weeks that actually started after a 7-2 loss in Philadelphia on Feb. 16. After that game, the Sabres went 15-4-4 and began Thursday tied with the eighth-place Washington Capitals
-- and feeling good about themselves after a come-from-behind 6-5 overtime win Tuesday against the Maple Leafs.
"We've got a lot of talented players, but we just couldn't get it going early enough," Miller said. "And then you run out of time and you run out of games, and it comes down to basically going on the biggest tear than any team in the League during the entire year just to make playoffs and that's not how you do it in this League. We got bit this year, and last year we got away with it."
Last season, the Sabres needed a 9-1-2 closing run to finish seventh in the East.
They lost to the Flyers in seven games in last year's first-round series, and once again, the Sabres' Stanley Cup hopes end in Philadelphia.
"I can't really digest right now," Miller said. "It's just disappointing. It's embarrassing to miss the playoffs."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK