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Third-period mistakes prove costly in loss to Blues

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

ST. LOUIS - For the first 40 minutes of their game at Scottrade Center on Tuesday night, the Sabres were very much alive in a physical, hard-fought battle with the St. Louis Blues. There had been several scoring chances for both teams, a fight between Josh Gorges and Robby Fabbri that encapsulated the intensity of the game and a pair of power-play goals that resulted in a 1-1 tie as the two teams left the ice for the second intermission.

By the time 2:19 had ticked off the clock in the third period, that tie had turned into a 3-1 Blues lead, which eventually turned into a 4-1 Blues win. After Johan Larsson opened the period with a shot that rung off the crossbar, Jaden Schwartz scored the go-ahead goal 44 seconds in and Kyle Brodziak extended their lead with a goal from in-tight 95 seconds later.

Both goals came off of mistakes while defending the rush. After Kevin Shattenkirk quarterbacked a breakout with a long stretch pass, Sam Reinhart admitted he lost his balance while getting back to defend what turned into Schwartz' game-winning goal. Brodziak got behind the defense to score his goal on a tip.

"It's a bit frustrating because we came out, got a real good look early and then we make a few mistakes," Gorges said afterward. "Against a team like this and most teams we're gonna play, they play a structured game, they play a tight game, and they wait for mistakes. When we made them tonight, they capitalized."

In addition to Larsson's shot off the crossbar, Evander Kane and Brian Gionta also saw shots ring off the posts. There were other memorable chances, too. Kyle Okposo shot the puck on a 2-on-1 and Kane shot wide on a rebound, Jake McCabe was stopped on a great rebound chance in the first period, and so on. But it ended with the Sabres' fourth performance of one goal or less in five games.

"We're strapped for goals, we're strapped for opportunities to get the goal," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's not for lack of effort. Guys are throwing it out there and giving everything they got. You feel like at this time we need a fluker, we need to fight to get that kind of odd goal to break us out."

With the loss, the Sabres are winless in five-straight games. They've earned two points in that stretch with an overtime loss to New Jersey and a shootout loss to Ottawa. They are not, however, panicking just yet. With their top two centers out of the lineup in Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel, the Sabres have managed to keep their games close. They know that capitalizing on their chances has been the difference.

"It's tough," said forward Sam Reinhart, who scored Buffalo's only goal in the first period. "We've got to get better, we've got to put the puck in the net, but we've been in games. We've got to find a way to get better and that's part of it."

Reinhart's goal came on the power play and gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead 7:55 into the contest. Reinhart caught a pass from Matt Moulson on the edge of the crease and immediately turned and took a shot that deflected into the net off the leg of Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

Video: BUF@STL: Reinhart opens the scoring with a PPG

Moulson's assist on the goal marked his seventh power-play point on the season, which ranks ninth in the NHL, and his third point in as many games. Moulson scored a goal in both of Buffalo's games against New Jersey this past weekend.

Bylsma had emphasized that his team wasn't generating enough power plays in recent games, and they answered by earning four power plays in St. Louis. Beyond Reinhart's goal on their first chance of the night, however, they came up empty handed.

"We had quite a few early and that was a result of moving our feet, getting to the puck first and those opportunities came from out-competing at 5-on-5 so that was a positive to earn those chances because obviously we haven't been getting them as of late," Reinhart said. "But that's a different game if we capitalize on the second and third power play."

Fabbri scored the game-tying goal later in the period with the Blues just nine seconds into their only power play of the night, burying the puck into an open net after he caught a deflection off of Gorges. The goal broke a 14-for-14 streak for the Buffalo penalty kill.

The Blues' fourth goal was scored into an empty net off the stick of Scottie Upshall with 1:26 remaining. Sabres goalie Robin Lehner ended his night with 27 saves, while Jake Allen stopped 23 shots for the Blues.

The Sabres will next return to KeyBank Center for their only four-game homestand of the season, which begins against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with the TOPS Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m

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