UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.
The Buffalo Sabres fell to the New York Islanders 4-1 on Saturday at Nassau Coliseum and interim coach Ted Nolan is seeing some of the same errors creep up more often than he would like.
Buffalo has now lost five games in a row after a stretch in which they had won four of five games.
Jhonas Enroth made 34 saves for the Sabres. Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo scored the first two goals of the gam for the Islanders two goals in the first period. Ryan Strome added another early in the third and Cal Clutterbuck tacked on an empty-net goal with 2:33 remaining in regulation.
Anders Nilsson turned aside 33 shots by the Sabres to earn the victory.
Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis made it 2-1, scoring 56 seconds into the third period but Strome put New York back in the lead 31 seconds later.
“I thought we had some chances there and I thought Jhonas probably could’ve [taken] those first couple back and made a better angle on them, but I thought we played OK,” Nolan said. “The big killer for us was we get the first goal to make it 2-1 and then the next shift over, we make another not very smart play, stand up at center ice, they go down 2-on-1. It just the same mistakes over and over and over again.”
Strome’s goal came on a neutral zone rush that resulted in him going in on Enroth alone. Enroth made the initial save, but Strome was able to put home the rebound.
“It’s tough. I thought I saved it but I guess the puck just stayed in front of me and he just tapped it in there. It was a bad bounce,” Enroth said.
Other than Ennis and Drew Stafford, the Sabres really aren’t receiving much offensive production. In the past five games, only Stafford or Ennis have scored. The pair has been consistently putting up points since the start of the new calendar year.
“It’s pretty simple. I think we’ve just got to work hard to get our chances and get it in and get back to our basics,” Ennis said.
Nolan would like to see more production from his other lines. Only six Sabres have recorded at least a point during Buffalo’s five-game losing streak. Ennis, Stafford and Cory Conacher are the only players with multiple points.
Both Ennis (2+2) and Stafford (3+1) are on four-game point streaks.
“Tyler Ennis, we can’t expect him to score all the goals every game and expect to win,” Nolan said. “Drew Stafford’s the same thing. He’s playing well. We need some other people to contribute once in awhile.”
Buffalo has scored a total of five goals in their past five games. Sabres alternate captain Christian Ehrhoff said the team needs to generate more traffic in and around the crease.
“We have to get a little more dirty, get more guys in front of the net and try to get an ugly on off the skates or off a rebound,” he said. “We’re a little too much on the outside and it’s tough to score goals when the goalie sees the puck and the opponent has good body position on you.”
Nolan also would prefer his team crash the net more to create more opportunities.
“When you shoot the puck on a goalie, 99 percent of the teams in this League jam the net, create some screens and fight for rebounds. For whatever reason, we peel away,” Nolan said. “We’re looking for a pass to shoot the puck into an empty net and it never happens. We do that over and over again. You have to have a certain pedigree to do that and sometimes our players don’t want to do it.”
Sabres forward Cody Hodgson moved from center to right wing for the game. Brian Flynn moved to the middle and Marcus Foligno manned the other wing. Hodgson has six points (2+4) in his past 13 games and Nolan hoped the move would jumpstart his offensive game.
“He hasn’t been that offensive guy we want and I thought maybe spring him on the right side and he could cheat offensively and take some chances," Nolan said. "But that didn’t work tonight.”
Rasmus Ristolainen made his return to the Sabres lineup after spending some time in Rochester. With Tyler Myers out with an upper-body injury, Ristolainen, 19, has been recalled from the American Hockey League. He played 19 games with the Sabres to start the year.
“I really liked him. I really do. He’s what you like in a hockey player,” Nolan said. “He’s big. He’s smart. He’s intelligent. He knows the game. He makes some really good reads out there so we’ve got a real good one coming there.
Sunday night, Buffalo hosts the Montreal Canadiens at 7 p.m. at First Niagara Center, so there won’t be much time to dwell on this loss. Montreal is coming off a 5-4 comeback victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
“There are some positive things we can take from tonight and obviously we have to regroup pretty fast,” Ehrhoff said. “Tomorrow’s our next game and we’ve got to get ready for that.”