SAN JOSE - In many respects, the performance the Buffalo Sabres put forth against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night was a vast improvement over their previous two losses. They cut down on the odd-man rushes that plagued them against New York and New Jersey, and their overall effort was more consistent.
But with the result being a 3-2 loss, nobody in the Buffalo dressing room was ready to pat themselves on the back for simply playing hard. The Sabres remain winless after four games, and to Jack Eichel and the others who spoke on Saturday night, results are the only thing that matters right now.
"We've got to just figure out a way to be sick of losing," Eichel said. "I know I'm sick of losing, there's a lot of guys who are sick of losing. But there's a difference between playing hard and playing hard and smart. We've got to execute our game. All the way through the lineup, myself included, we've just got to be sick of losing."
Video: BUF Recap: Pominville scores two in Sabres' 3-2 loss
While the Sabres did cut down on their mistakes, the ones they did make led to pucks in the back of their net. After Tomas Hertl opened the scoring for San Jose on the power play, the Sharks got their second and third goals from Chris Tierney and Timo Meier on defensive-zone breakdowns.
"Those things we're going to have to correct," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "I think the guys realize that they're close. You can't fault them for that. We've got to recognize that it's going to be hard for us to get out of this. Hopefully this makes us a better team going forward."
Jason Pominville scored both goals for the Sabres, while linemates Eichel and Zemgus Girgensons each tallied a pair of assists. The performance continued a promising start to the season for Pominville, but also shed light on one of Buffalo's major problems: Through four games, only three Sabres have scored goals. Pominville and Evander Kane have four apiece, while Eichel has one to go along with four assists.
Housley has called for his team to have more of a presence at the net-front in order to lead to scoring, and Robin Lehner echoed those thoughts following the game. Lehner allowed three goals on 26 shots, but said he thought the Sharks did a good job getting bodies in front of the net.
San Jose goalie Martin Jones saw 25 shots, with the only goals he allowed coming on odd-man rushes.
"You're not going to beat goalies if you don't have anyone in front of the net," Lehner said. "I think Jones saw every shot today. It's not to be on anyone, but we've got to recognize it as a team."
Like the Sabres, the Sharks entered the game looking for their first win of the season. The Sabres expected their opponent to come out strong, and they did. But the Sabres were able to weather the storm, matching San Jose's first two goals until Meier scored what would stand as the game-winner with 5:30 remaining in the second period.
Buffalo had plenty of time to match that one too, but the third goal never came. They squandered a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 47 seconds and missed on their chances in front of the net.
As Housley said, they were close. But the urgency to close the gap on their opponents is even higher now with three games remaining on their current road trip, with a strong Los Angeles team due up next.
"We all just need to relax," Eichel said. "We have a lot of good players on this team. It'll come, it's just frustrating that it's not coming right now. You want to see results for your team. We're working hard, but sometimes working hard is not enough. We've got to do that little extra to get the win.
"That's what this league's about, winning. We've got to find a way to do it. We've got three hard games left in this road trip."
A pair for Pommer
Pominville's two-goal effort was his second such outing of the young season, tying him with Kane - who also has two multi-goal games this season - for the team lead with four goals. On both occasions, Pominville was the benefactor of great feeds from Eichel on the rush.
The first goal began with a well-executed breakout between Rasmus Ristolainen and Pominville, freeing Girgensons and Eichel on the rush. Girgensons made a good feed to Eichel, who made an even better feed off his backhand to set up Pominville in the slot:
Video: BUF@SJS: Pominville finishes pretty passing sequence
In the second period, it was Girgensons making the pass at the blue line to free Eichel and Pominville for an odd-man rush. Eichel squeezed a pass between the sticks of two defenders, allowing Pominville to score into an open cage:
Video: BUF@SJS: Pominville, Eichel connect for great goal
"I think both goals started from breakouts," Pominville said. "You break the puck out and we were able to generate speed, we got lost and found a way to put it in the back of the net."
The Sabres will continue their western road trip against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Saturday night. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 10:30.