Phil Housley had stressed how important the two available points were for the Buffalo Sabres against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night. The Sabres began the night trailing the Coyotes by one point at the bottom of the standings, leaving a lot of pride on the line in their matchup.
Having an opportunity to climb out of the cellar made the outcome all the more disappointing. The Sabres only trailed by a goal going into the second intermission but managed just six shots in the third period of an eventual 4-1 loss. Housley voiced his frustration with his team's work level after the game.
"It's an opportunity to get back in the game, and they outworked us in the third period," he said. "I'm telling the group that we have 10 periods left to play in this building [this season], that's what's the frustrating part, because it's not the way we have played, it's not the response we're looking for. It's disappointing."
Video: HOUSLEY: Postgame Interview
Arizona won the special teams battle, going 2-for-3 on the power play with a pair of first-period goals from Dylan Strome and Derek Stepan while Buffalo went 0-for-4. Housley acknowledged the impact special teams had on the game but was more displeased with the Sabres' play at 5-on-5.
The Sabres generated 54 shot attempts in the first two periods but had few quality looks against Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta. At the end of the night, they had 24 shots blocked and 18 miss the net.
"They came with a lot of pressure and we just couldn't seem to get the looks we wanted," alternate captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "… It wasn't what we wanted. We've got to find a way to generate at least something. If we don't score, we at least got to get some chances that gives us momentum."
The one goal they did score, which came off the stick of Jordan Nolan with 8:18 remaining in the first period, came in an area that Housley has been imploring his players to get to all season. Evan Rodrigues got a shot through traffic while Nolan screened Raanta, and Nolan was able to peel off the goalie to score into an open net.
Video: ARI@BUF: Nolan evens the score with easy backhander
It was one of the few times the Sabres established themselves in that area. Nolan echoed his coach after the game and said there were few positives to draw from the loss.
"Not a lot of energy out there, not a lot of work, not a lot of compete," Nolan said. "I mean, that's the two bottom-place teams so there should be a little bit of pride in there."
After neither team scored in the second period, Richard Panik extended the Arizona lead just 6:31 into the third. Max Domi capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 10 seconds remaining.
The Sabres were coming off a 4-0 loss to Nashville in Monday in which, despite the outcome, they left reasonably happy with the way they competed against the best team in the NHL. They've had similarly strong performances over the past two months against top-tier teams such as Boston and Tampa Bay.
Housley has said in the past that learning to respond to those strong performances remains an area in which his team still needs to grow, which he reiterated Wednesday.
"That's just where we are as a group," Housley said. "We can't handle success. By the way, we lost that game 4-0 so you think you'd come out gangbusters to start the game. It was a very meaningful game in the respect that you're last place in the league. That's what's hard to swallow and it's just unacceptable."
Johnson leaves with injury
Chad Johnson left the game with an injury in the second period and did not return. The goaltender was initially shaken up in the first period after taking a shot off his mask but remained in the game until the 6:28 mark of the second. He allowed two goals on 15 shots, while Linus Ullmark went 12-for-13 in relief.
Housley did not have an update on Johnson's condition after the game. The Sabres already have one goalie dealing with an injury in Robin Lehner, who is day-to-day. Lehner was a full participant the team's morning skate on Wednesday.
The Sabres conclude their six-game homestand against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night. Looking to bring the family? Get your Family Pack - which includes four 300-level tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas and four popcorns - here.
Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m., or you can listen to the game live on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7.