Jean-Gabriel Pageau swatted a puck out of midair to break a tie with 4:52 remaining and what had begun as a promising night for the Buffalo Sabres ended as another disappointing loss to the New York Islanders, this time by a score of 3-2 at Nassau Coliseum on Monday.
The Sabres fell behind early in each of their two losses at home to the Islanders last week, which came on the heels of a 15-day hiatus. This time, coming off a win in New Jersey on Saturday, they struck first on a goal from Curtis Lazar. They later erased a 2-1 deficit on a power-play goal from Sam Reinhart in the third.
The goal from Pageau - who also scored in both prior meetings between the two teams - came with 18 seconds remaining on an Islanders power play after Riley Sheahan was called for tripping.
"This is probably the most painful loss of the season for the way we were able to neutralize them, create opportunity but come out on the short end of the stick again," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "We have to be responsible for that."
Here are five takeaways from the game.
Video: BUF Recap: Reinhart, Lazar score in Sabres' 3-2 loss
1. Krueger: "It was not enough offense"
The Sabres coach felt his team had enough chances to string together a high-scoring game against the defensively stingy Islanders. They finished the night with a 36-23 edge in shots on goal.
Taylor Hall was held without a goal despite tallying six shots, not including one that deflected wide off the post. Jack Eichel hit a post during a power play in the second period.
"It was not enough offense," Krueger said. "I think when you look at that game, even if they score three, we could have had five or more."
2. A sense of urgency
Having a schedule entirely comprised of intra-division games offers a chance to make up ground with a hot stretch, but players recognize the need to begin stringing together wins soon.
The Sabres fell to 0-3-0 on the season against the Islanders, who now sit nine points ahead of them as the East Division's third-place team. Fourth-place Philadelphia is seven points ahead of Buffalo.
"There's no excuses here," Lazar said. "We understand the importance of this stretch to get back in this race. Every game's against your division. There's ground to be made up and there's ground to be lost. We decide what we do with it."
3. Filling in on defense
The Sabres played the game without two of their top defensemen in Rasmus Ristolainen, whose return is indefinite following a severe bout with COVID-19, and Jake McCabe, who is out for the season after sustaining multiple injuries to his right knee on Saturday. William Borgen also missed the game to nurse an upper-body injury.
Rasmus Dahlin led the team in ice time at 23:40. Brandon Davidson and Henri Jokiharju re-entered the lineup and each eclipsed 14 minutes, including healthy doses of Islanders leading scorer Mathew Barzal.
Video: POSTGAME: Krueger
"This is going to be a tough one to swallow because of the way we were able to fill the holes of the injured players," Krueger said. "I thought everybody coming in here played well."
4. Mittelstadt tallies assist in return
Casey Mittelstadt drew back into the lineup at forward in place of Jeff Skinner, who was a healthy scratch. He tallied his second assist in three games this season on Lazar's goal, chasing a loose puck into the corner and quickly feeding a pass to Jokiharju at the point.
Video: BUF@NYI: Lazar deflects Jokiharju's point shot home
Mittelstadt finished the game with two shots in 12:38, including a breakaway during the third period that began with a takeaway at the Buffalo blue line.
"Last year, I kind of saw how quickly it can be taken away," said Mittelstadt, who spent the latter part of 2019-20 in Rochester after beginning his career in Buffalo.
"I kind of took it for granted a little bit. I think when my chances come, just go play and play as a hard as I can and make sure that when the game's over, I know I left it out there."
5. Rieder exits early
Tobias Rieder did not return after finishing his sixth shift of the game at the 15:38 mark of the first period. The shift ended with the winger attempting to split the Islanders defense as he carried the puck into the offensive zone before being met by a hip check from defenseman Ryan Pulock.
Rieder has three goals in 14 games this season and has been a consistent presence on the Buffalo penalty kill, averaging 1:31 in shorthanded ice time per game.