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Sabres lament defensive lapses following loss in New York

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

NEW YORK - Sam Reinhart scored his 20th goal of the season on Saturday. He wishes it would have meant more.

Reinhart's was the lone goal scored for the Sabres in a 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, their fourth in a row. The Sabres have been outscored 16-2 in those games despite outshooting their opponents in each of them. 

"I think everyone's kind of gripping a little bit too tight at the same time, and that doesn't give you very much success," Reinhart said. "I think we can be better as forwards at getting ourselves in position for second and third opportunities. I don't think we've had many of those in the last couple."

Video: BUF Recap: Reinhard scores in 5-1 loss to Rangers

The Sabres got the start they wanted following a shutout loss to Montreal on Friday. They were outshooting the Rangers 18-6 when Chris Kreider opened the scoring for the Rangers with 3:31 remaining in the first period, on a crossing feed from Mika Zibanejad. Jimmy Vesey added a second goal 1:33 later. 

New York poured on three more goals in the second period - one at even-strength from Neal Pionk followed by two on the power play from Zibanejad and Vesey - to extends its lead to 5-0. 

"All the things we did with the puck, we did really well," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "But when we didn't have it, we didn't defend well. We lost coverage. Guys were beating us up the ice, and I think it goes back to having respect for our own end and our own goaltender."

On all five of their goals, the Rangers found space and were able to take uncontested shots. Kreider was alone at the doorstep when he caught the pass from Zibanejad to open the scoring, then later returned the favor when he burst behind the defense and made the same pass to set up Zibanejad's goal. 

Vesey was alone on both of his goals. Pionk's goal came on a one-time shot from the left faceoff circle.

"It's just decisions without the puck," defenseman Marco Scandella said. "We have to get better. We got a lot of shots on net, but we didn't play defense. … We've got to play harder, that's it."

Robin Lehner, making his first appearance since March 15, was pulled after allowing four goals on 12 shots in 28:23. Linus Ullmark allowed one goal on 11 shots in relief.

"I can't fault Robin for any of those goals," Housley said. "We missed coverages, missed picking up guys. I don't think he had a chance. But you give up four goals on [12] shots, I was just trying to save him a little bit and maybe send a message to our team."

Reinhart finally found the back of the net on the power play with 4:34 remaining in the third period, ending rookie goaltender Alexandar Georgiev's bid for his first career shutout. Reinhart was stationed in front of Georgiev and deflected a slap shot from Kyle Okposo, reaching the 20-goal mark for the second time in his young career.

Video: BUF@NYR: Reinhart redirects Okposo's shot for PPG

It's that sort of net-front presence that Housley has been imploring his team to create at even strength. 

"I'm going to harp on it and I'm going to continue to harp on it: zone one," Housley said. "We're not getting there enough. To score in this league at this time of year, five-on-five, even-strength, you have to be willing to go there, especially the first guy and try to take the goalie's eyes.

"We're getting there and then we're rolling out, we're not staying there. We've got to make it more miserable for the goaltenders that we're facing."


Up next

The Sabres conclude their road trip against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m., or you can listen live on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7. 

The team returns home on Thursday to host the Detroit Red Wings. 

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