EDMONTON - It was a record-setting night, but not the kind the Edmonton Oilers wanted to see.
Drew Stafford's first of three goals just 10 seconds into the game set the tone as the Buffalo Sabres struck early and struck often in a 10-2 trampling of the Oilers on Tuesday night, the worst loss on home ice in team history.
"It was a debacle of monumental proportions. There were plenty of areas of our game plan that could be criticized," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
"The effort tonight, we were just chasing our tails all night. We're not as masochistic as it may seem watching that game. We have to execute our game plan a whole lot better than we did."
Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert said his team just didn't have it from the word go.
"It was frustrating and embarrassing right from the beginning of the game," he said. "We obviously weren't ready to play. If you are not ready to execute, a team like this is going to expose you in every aspect of the game and that's exactly what happened to us tonight."
The Oilers disappointing performance ended a three-game winning streak. 24-20-3. The eight-goal differential eclipsed a game that tied the then record seven-goal mark from earlier this season when they lost 9-2 to Chicago.
"We didn't think that this could happen to us again," said Edmonton assistant captain Steve Staios. "Especially the way that we were playing of late. Hopefully the experience we have from trying to shake it off last time is the way to do it because we started playing better and got ourselves into a playoff position. You can't sugarcoat how tough a night it was but we have to put this behind us quickly and move on."
The Sabres, who had a goal and two assists from both Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, a two goal effort from Tim Connolly and singles from Nathan Paetsch, Jochen Hecht and Jaroslav Spacek, will remember this effort for a while.
"We worked really hard tonight and it was one of those games where everything was going in for us," said Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur. "It's a great confidence booster for us coming back from the break."
Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff showed sympathy for his opponents.
"It was one of those nights where we caught them flat," he said. "I've been behind the bench on a team where you have a night like that and it's tough. The harder they tried it seemed like the worse it was getting."
Perhaps the best feel-good story on the night was Stafford, the nephew of long-time Oilers equipment manager Barrie Stafford, getting a hat trick in Edmonton.
"It was pretty ironic. I was pretty nervous before the game," he said. "You don't get too hyped up and look into things too much, but this one was special for me, it was my first time here playing in front of my uncle seeing me live. Growing up and hanging out with him and that team, it was pretty special, pretty unique."
Buffalo (25-18-5) has now won four of its last five and eight of its last 11 games.
Edmonton had a disastrous start to the game as a mix-up between Lubomir Visnovsky and Ales Hemsky led to a goal just 10 seconds in when Vanek picked up the errant puck and fed Stafford, who beat Oilers starter Dwayne Roloson for his 10th of the season.
And then just one minute and one second later Buffalo was up 2-0 as Clarke MacArthur swung around from the back of the net and fed it to a pinching Paetsch for his first of the season.
The early pounding continued as the Sabres took a three-goal lead midway through the opening period on a goal sent in through Roloson's legs by Roy for his 19th of the season. The Oilers yanked Roloson and replaced him with rookie backup Jeff Deslauriers after allowing three goals on eight shots.
Surprisingly Edmonton had more first period shots, directing 18 on Sabres starter Ryan Miller to 11 from Buffalo.
The Sabres continued to take it to Edmonton early in the second with their fourth goal just two minutes in when Pominville made a return pass to Hecht in close to the Oilers net and Hecht was able to sweep the puck under a sprawling DesLaurier.
Edmonton finally got on the board with the game's first power play goal with 6:37 to go in the second as Robert Nilsson found Cole streaking towards the net and his wrist-shot went in off of Miller to make it 4-1.
But Buffalo responded with a power play marker of its own less than a minute later as Vanek sent a feed through the crease to Connolly who put the puck into the open net.
The Sabres would make it 7-1 before the period was out with two goals in under a minute and a half, starting when Craig Rivet kept a puck in at the point and put in it on net for Vanek to tip in for his 29th of the season and they quickly got another one with a minute to play in the middle frame on a power play point shot by Spacek.
Stafford made it a nine-goal game with two goals just 1:18 apart midway through the third to record the hat trick.
Nilsson scored with just 2:08 to go for Edmonton but the Sabres restored their massive eight-goal margin of victory when Connolly scored his second of the game short-handed With 1:15 to play.
The Sabres travel to Calgary to take on the Flames on Wednesday. Edmonton plays the fourth game of a six-game homestand on Friday against Minnesota.
Notes: The Oilers announced on Tuesday that they will be without sophomore centre Sam Gagner for up to two weeks. Gagner has been hampered by a bum ankle that did not improve much during the all-star break... Bruising forward Zack Stortini returned to the Edmonton lineup for the contest from a leg injury initially believed to likely keep him out of action than the less than three weeks he was on the shelf Out with injuries for the Sabres were Patrick Kaleta (neck), Maxim Afinogenov (groin), Andrej Sekera (undisclosed), Teppo Numminen (jaw) and Henrik Tallinder (shoulder) Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller owned the Oilers in his two previous starts, giving up only two goals in two career games against Edmonton with a 2-0 record and .961 save percentage It was the Sabres first appearance in Edmonton since Oct. 16, 2003.