NASHVILLE - The Buffalo Sabres didn't leave Nashville with a victory, but overall, the team feels pretty good about their play as they head into the bye week.
The Sabres fell 2-1 to the Predators on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, with Sam Reinhart scoring Buffalo's lone goal. Linus Ullmark made 35 saves in net for Buffalo, making big stops throughout the contest, from the first few minutes until the very end.
Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne made 30 saves. Ryan Johansen tied the game early in the second and then Craig Smith scored the game-winner on the power play with 6:29 left in regulation.
"It was a good hockey game. Linus made a lot of really, really good saves out there, same with Rinne," Sabres alternate captain Jake McCabe said. "It's one of those things where we didn't capitalize with our chances and that's the way it goes."
The Sabres enter the bye week with a record of 22-20-7 through 49 games. They're six points out of a playoff spot right now, but they believe that they can climb right back into the race with a strong push after the bye week.
"It's pretty obvious what we need to do. We've just got to keep chipping away," Reinhart said. "We've been setting goals internally and we're just trying to keep meeting those goals and chip away and keep putting points up on the board. This one's a little disappointing, but we've got some time to regroup and re-energize and come back fresh and ready to go."
Video: BUF Recap: Ullmark makes 35 saves in 2-1 loss
The Sabres are 5-3-0 over their last eight games, winning three of their last four. They went 3-1-0 at home and 2-2-0 on the road during that stretch. In their last three road games, they put together strong defensive efforts.
"We're playing well, we're keeping them to the outside for the majority. I thought Linus made five or six unbelievable saves tonight. He's done it all year," Okposo said. "But I like the way that we're playing. Our identity's there and we're doing it more often than not. I like the way that we're going, it's just tough when you don't get the W."
With 1:02 remaining in the first period, the Sabres opened the scoring on Reinhart's 17th goal of the season. The play developed in large part because of Rasmus Dahlin's vision. He was able to thread a pass cross-ice to find Reinhart alone on the left wing.
Nashville tied the game when Johansen's shot from behind the net redirected in off defenseman Zach Bogosian 6:05 into the second period.
Video: POSTGAME: Krueger
Then, with the Sabres on the power play 2:53 into the third period, the Sabres had a goal disallowed because of goaltender interference.
"I pushed his pad in. It's no goal. It's pretty simple," Okposo said when asked about the play after the game.
The Predators took the lead when Smith's shot deflected in off the post and off of Ullmark's pad to cross the goal line.
"It's frustrating because we feel we had our opportunities and just couldn't find a way to capitalize," Reinhart said. "Both teams played a tight game and there were momentum swings throughout it, but they were just able to find that last goal to go ahead."
Video: POSTGAME: Reinhart
Buffalo's next game will be played on Jan. 28 at home against the Ottawa Senators. In the meantime, the players will use the week off to recharge and prepare for the stretch run. There's a chance that injured forward Jeff Skinner could be ready to return by then. Victor Olofsson, also out with an injury, may be back in the lineup soon after.
"My message to them was, 49 games that have tested us and strengthened us and taught us that we've enjoyed. We've enjoyed the challenge," coach Ralph Krueger said. "We would've liked to have more wins, but everybody's liking the process. They've bought into the process.
"I told them to go and spend time with people that give them energy, and go to locations where they can get some energy, and let's come back full batteries, full charged with the hunger to build on this team game that's evolving here and gives us an exciting chance to be a competitive part of this league right through the season."