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Sabres focus on big picture after 5-1 loss to Chicago

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

One of the keys that was preached within the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room during a stretch of four wins in five games entering Sunday was the ability to forget. They didn't ride the highs of their victories; they simply took the wins for what they were and looked ahead to the next opponent.  

The same goes for the losses, and the Sabres will have a whole five days to forget about their 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday evening. Buffalo begins its bye week on Monday and won't play again until their game in Colorado on Saturday.

 "We'll forget about this one," said goalie Robin Lehner, who made 32 saves in the loss. "It's unfortunate, a hell of a hockey club out there. We've got a lot to learn from a team like that, how they play and how they do things. You know what, we've been playing good hockey lately and we can't get away from ourselves here for one game. 

"After the break, it starts again. We've got to string games together and I think we're going to do that. I think we have the ability to do that. We're back in the race, so, this game, it would be nice to win but it doesn't change anything."

Video: BUF Recap: Kane scores Sabres' lone goal in 5-1 loss

The loss was the 11th in a row for the Sabres against the Blackhawks, a drought that dates back to Dec. 11, 2009. Chicago has been a perennial contender over that span of time, and it was the usual suspects who helped beat the Sabres on Sunday. Marian Hossa scored the go-ahead goal to break a 1-1 tie midway through the second period, and Jonathan Toews followed suit shortly after. 

Patrick Kane did the rest of the damage in the third, first with a quick one-time feed to set up Artem Anisimov just 3:29 into the period and then by cleaning up a rebound for a goal of his own less than three minutes later. 

Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said the game became the type of track meet his team didn't want it to be. That's mostly because of the Blackhawks' ability to thrive on the rush, but it also couldn't have helped that the Sabres were playing their 11th game in 18 days. The grueling stretch comes as a byproduct of the new NHL bye week; with the five days off comes an otherwise condensed schedule.

When it was all said and done, the Sabres won six of those 11 games, earned points in seven and put themselves within ear shot of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We got beat by a good team," Bylsma said. "Yes, we've played a lot of games in the last 19 days and a lot in the last week here. It was a challenge and a measuring stick against a really good team and we come on the wrong end of it. Still, we're four of our last six, we've had a good stretch of games here and those were important games for us to win … 

" … It doesn't feel good right now because it's a game we don't win today. This was a stretch of a lot of games in 19 days where we needed to get some wins, and, especially in the last six, guys have done that. Guys have played hard hockey and they've gotten wins and that's exactly what we needed to do to try and get ourselves into the mix."

Video: BYLSMA: Postgame

It was only a week ago Sunday that Buffalo dropped a home contest against Vancouver, after which emotions were high. Lehner called the team's play that night "disrespectful." Kyle Okposo referred to it as being "gross" at times. 

Their response to this loss was evidence of how far the team has come in their three wins since. 

"We did some good things in these last few games," forward Jack Eichel said. "Obviously this one hurts a bit because you know how close you've gotten yourself, and this would've been a real nice one to get before the end of this stretch. We played a good team and we obviously didn't have it. We didn't have our best tonight.

" … Just take this time to, like I said, relax a bit and just get ready for that final however many games it is and make a playoff push. We've done some good things and we're starting to find ourselves. That consistency just needs to be there every night."

"This game would've been nice to win, but we string another three, four together after the break and we're right in it," Lehner added. "I feel like this year is going to be a race to the finish line."

 

Evander stays hot

Evander Kane' scored Buffalo's only goal on a feed from Eichel to tie the game at 1-1 with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period. The goal was his second in as many nights and his 15th point (9+6) in his last 14 games. It was also his team-leading 21st of the season, all of which have come since Dec. 3. That number ranks second in the NHL only to Montreal's Max Pacioretty, who's scored 23 goals in the same span of time.

Video: CHI@BUF: Kane lights the lamp off of Eichel's feed

Eichel's assist, meanwhile, marked his 18th point (5+13) in his last 18 games.

 

Up next

The Sabres will return to action on Saturday, Feb. 25, when they begin a two-game road trip in Colorado against the Avalanche. Buffalo only allowed 23 shots when the two teams met on Thursday at KeyBank Center, a 2-0 win for the Sabres. 

In the meantime, it won't be a bye week for Sabres.com. Look out for daily content over the next five days, leading up to Buffalo's return to practice in Colorado on Friday night.

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