In order to win at home against a Vancouver Canucks team coming off a lopsided loss one night prior, Phil Housley and the Buffalo Sabres knew they'd need a more complete effort than the one they had in Vegas on Tuesday.
Instead, their game against the Canucks in many ways resembled their loss to the Golden Knights. The Sabres scored first, but then got outplayed for the majority of the first 40 minutes in a 4-2 loss at KeyBank Center on Friday night.
"It was gross," Sabres forward Kyle Okposo said of the team's start. "That was gross. We didn't come out ready to play. It was what we had stressed, what we had talked about. We didn't do it … That's on us."
Video: BUF Recap: Eichel, Bailey tally in 4-2 loss at home
Along the way, more old habits arose. In spite of lopsided totals in the shot column, the Sabres had been able to preserve a 2-1 lead on the strength of goals from Justin Bailey and Jack Eichel until Derek Dorsett scored with the Canucks shorthanded to tie the game 5:52 into second period.
Dorsett's goal was the sixth shorthanded marker allowed by the Sabres this season. They only allowed a total of four last season in its entirety, leaving players searching for answers as to why their woes on the power play have snowballed.
"Lack of execution, lack of battle, lack of concentration, squeezing our sticks too tight, not making plays," Okposo said. "When you're not feeling good, you've just got to bear down and make plays and just get the puck to the net, keep it simple."
On this particular goal, Nathan Beaulieu pinched down on a loose puck in an attempt to keep possession in the Vancouver zone. The Canucks got to the puck first, opening the door for a 2-on-1 rush going back the other way.
"Nate got caught in-between a little bit and then he had to go," Housley said. "It was unfortunate. I'm sure if he looked back he'd probably want to pull out and just take the 2-on-2 rush against. Unfortunately he tried to go for it and they got a mini 2-on-1.
"Those things are really a big factor in the games that we've lost. We build some momentum and it seems to be stealing it from us."
Less than three minutes after Dorsett pulled the Canucks even, the brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin connected to put them ahead. With both teams changing, the duo slipped free as they rushed toward the net with Henrik feeding Daniel for the goal.
By the time the horn sounded to end the second period, the Sabres were being outshot 37-13. Housley said the Sabres lack of possession was a matter of missed execution up the ice.
"We had opportunities to get pucks deep, and we talked about that, just playing a simple game," he said. "We got it over the blue line but not deep enough, and they countered … When you play that way, you are going to waste energy in the wrong areas."
The Sabres were able to create some offense in the third period, but couldn't get the final goal they needed past Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom only needed to make 20 saves in the victory. Sabres goalie Chad Johnson made 37 saves in his second straight loss.
Video: Phil Housley Postgame (10/20/17)
Dorsett sealed the win for the Canucks by scoring his second goal of the game into an empty net with 22 seconds remaining. Markus Granlund also scored a goal for the Canucks.
With the loss, the Sabres fall to 1-5-2 this season. They'll look to right the ship in Boston on Saturday.
"We've got to look at ourselves and really dig down," Okposo said. "We've got to come out and play with some fire."
Housley shortens his lineup
Video: Kyle Okposo Postgame (10/20/17)
Housley reduced some players' ice time significantly with the Sabres pressing to comeback in the third period. Matt Moulson skated just 57 seconds in the period, Jordan Nolan skated 1:54 and, perhaps most surprisingly, Okposo skated 2:04 - of which only 42 seconds came at even strength.
Okposo missed two games earlier in the week due to illness, and had gone without a point this season until earning an assist on Bailey's goal in the first period. Afterward, he said he didn't disagree with Housley's decision to limit his ice time.
"I've just got to make some plays, move my feet, do the things that I know how to do that make me a good hockey player," Okposo said. "I've got to look at myself and get going."
Beaulieu leaves with injury
Beaulieu completed his last shift with 2:30 remaining in the second period and did not return for the third. Housley said afterward that the defenseman is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
The Sabres already entered Friday with a banged-up defense corps, with Zach Bogosian and Justin Falk week-to-week and Josh Gorges day-to-day. The team recalled Taylor Fedun on Friday morning to serve as a seventh defenseman.
Housley challenged Sedin's go-ahead goal for an offside entry, but after a lengthy review it was ruled that Vancouver's Jake Virtanen had possession of the puck as he crossed the blue line. The failed challenge resulted in a minor penalty for delay of game against the Sabres.
"I disagree with the call, totally," Housley said. "In my opinion, he knocks the puck out of the air. He never has possession. If you call that possession, then as [long] as I've been in the league, it's a different answer or different explanation that they give me. I call it 10 out of 10 times offside."
Video: Justin Bailey Postgame (10/20/17)
For a kid from Buffalo, Bailey has already checked quite a few items off the bucket list. Being drafted by his hometown team was surely one, being called up and scoring his first NHL goal another. What had Bailey hadn't done entering Friday, however, was score on home ice as a Sabres.
He can check that off now, too. Just like in his season debut on Sunday, Bailey scored to give the Sabres the lead on his first shift of the night. The play began with a perfect entry from Okposo to Ryan O'Reilly, and O'Reilly made a pretty feed to find Bailey at the net-front:
Video: VAN@BUF: Bailey flips a shot past Markstrom
"I'm trying to make an impact every single shift," Bailey said. "For me to get that one early and help the team have success in the first was something I wanted to do coming in, and I was fortunate enough to do that."
The Sabres will conclude their back-to-back set on the road against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.