|Ales Kotalik (photo: Bill Wippert) |
The Buffalo Sabres missed an opportunity to right a ship that's been on the wrong course for more than a decade. After squandering a two-goal lead, the Sabres saw their five-game winning streak ended with a 4-3 loss in HSBC Arena to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
Buffalo has been sining the blues when playing St. Louis for a very long time. The Sabres are winless in the two team's last 11 meetings (0-8-1-2) and haven't won since Oct. 22, 1995. That rare victory came across the street in the Memorial Auditorium.
Why the poor results?
Unfamiliarity with the opposition is one possible explanation. Even in this day and age, video can not replace first-hand experience.
"You don't see this team at all," said Ales Kotalik, who scored his fifth goal of the season midway through the second period. "It's not an excuse, but you really don't know what [style] they are playing.
"It's tough to get any kind of preparation for a team like this."
But Kotalik was quick to dissuade the notion that lack of preparation was the reason for the Sabres 11th loss of the season, instead sighting the team's overall performance.
"We shouldn't be playing like that at all," said Kotalik. "We turned so many pucks over today and couldn't generate much. That's where we've got to get better till the next game."
The Sabres winning streak may have come to an end, but their ability to get off to a fast start hasn't. Buffalo scored first for the sixth consecutive game thanks to Jason Pominville
's redirection off Clarke MacArthur's across-ice feed at 18:39 of the first period.
"I just tried to find a lane," said Pominville, who has two goals in as many games after going scoreless in 13 straight. "I just kind of kept my stick on the ice and [the pass] kind of went through two people, and ended up hitting my stick and then my leg."
It's been a streaky season for Buffalo, who scored first in the opening three games of the season before allowing the opening tally in the next 14. The current six-game stint started at home against Montreal on Nov. 16.
Buffalo is now 6-3-0 when scoring first and 5-8-1 when they don't.
Head coach Lindy Ruff said following the game that a single power-play goal won't win you many games. True enough.
But the Sabres special teams certainly made the most of the their limited opportunities against the league's top penalty kill.
Kotalik scored with a blazing one-timer from a poor angle to give Buffalo a commanding 2-0 lead at 12:28 of the middle frame. It just happened to be the only shot the team produced in two man-advantage situations all night.
"Today, we just waited for the chance to get out there," said Kotalik. "We were able to score, but in the end, we played a poor hockey game and a poor 60 minutes."
Buffalo has converted five of their last 16 opportunities (31.3 percent) on the power play. Their season average of 19.6 percent coming into the contest was good for tenth in the league.