Jake McCabe was back in the lineup wearing an "A" for the Sabres on Sunday night, marking his return from a 13-game absence that stemmed from an upper-body injury.
The result, a 4-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, was frustrating for everyone in the Sabres' dressing room. But McCabe said he was glad to be back, battling alongside his teammates.
"It's never easy sitting in the press box watching all your buddies battle over this last month," he said. "But I was really anxious to get out there and it feels really good to be back in this room with all these guys and competing side by side."
Video: BUF Recap: Ullmark makes 32 saves in 4-0 defeat
McCabe expressed empathy for a deservedly frustrated fanbase following the loss, which extended the Sabres' winless streak to seven games. What he would not do was concede to the notion that he and his teammates are taking it lightly.
"We're not quitting," he said. "We're showing resiliency. Guys are battling through the end, and obviously we continue to end up on the wrong side of things right now, but we're going to continue harping competing and work ethic.
"… I feel for [the fans]. I mean, it sucks. Obviously, nobody wants to lose in this city, including us. It's not like we're going out there trying to lose every single night. Obviously, it sucks for the fans, it sucks for us, it sucks for everyone involved.
"It's been a few years of this, which has been unfortunate for a lot of us in here. Once again, I'm just going to keep harping on it that the only way we get out of it is competing and work ethic. We've got a few games left. Just try to come to the rink with a positive attitude and try to end on a good note."
The Sabres emphasized the start to their game after falling behind early in a loss on Long Island on Saturday. They answered the bell at the outset, jumping out to a 7-1 shot advantage over the first six minutes.
The game turned when Pierre Luc-Dubois opened the scoring for the Blue Jackets 7:14 into the contest, finding room at the backdoor to redirect a shot from Seth Jones. That snowballed into a three-goal period for Columbus, with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nick Foligno adding goals before the first intermission.
"I just think we tighten up a little bit," Kyle Okposo said. "I thought our start was really good. We come out, we attack the game. We were playing really well the first seven, eight minutes, then they get one and then we just sat back on our heels a little bit."
The Sabres settled down for the most part in the second period, playing to a 13-11 shot advantage, but allowed Josh Anderson to score the Blue Jackets' fourth goal on a rush with 4:29 remaining. Linus Ullmark was in net for all four goals while compiling 32 saves.
Buffalo was unable to solve Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky despite generating a handful of quality chances in the third. Bobrovsky made 38 saves for his league-leading ninth shutout of the season, including eight on Jack Eichel, seven on Brandon Montour and five on Okposo.
"[The fans] have a right to be mad," Okposo said. "They have a right to be pissed. The second half of the year hasn't gone as planned. It's just, last night we were lifeless, today it was a little bit better, but it was 4-0. It's not good enough.
"We've got to give them something to cheer about, and we didn't tonight. They've got a right to be upset. They've been through a lot of aches, a lot of heart ache, and we need to be better for them."
The Sabres have two home games remaining, with a visit from the Nashville Predators up next on Tuesday.
"It's always difficult when you don't get the results," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "I know this is part of the process for us. I'm frustrated, because for the most part, I think our guys have been working very hard and they're not getting rewarded and they got to find a way.
"But it takes everybody on our lineup. Whoever's in the lineup, we can't have two or three guys off, because we just don't have that kind of a lineup. It's frustrating. I understand the fans' frustration. Guys are frustrated. They want to do better at home here."
Coverage of Buffalo's home game against Nashville on Tuesday begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7.