BOSTON - For the second game in a row, frustration boiled over in the dressing room for a Buffalo Sabres team performing well beneath its own expectations. The Sabres lost to the Boston Bruins for the second time in three days on Saturday afternoon, this time by a score of 3-1, squandering a prime opportunity to make up ground in the Atlantic Division standings.
The loss was the sixth in seven games for the Sabres, a fact Jack Eichel made well known as he packed his bags in the visiting room at TD Garden. Eichel allowed his frustrations to be heard as he shouted and slammed his equipment into his bag, an outburst that represented the collective disappointment of a group that is far from where it planned to be nearly midway through the season.
"I think every one of us should be [angry]," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We know the situation we're in and we know how desperate we are at this point of the season to win hockey games. We should all find that desperation and that urgency and that anger."
The Sabres knew their home-and-home set with the Bruins was an important stretch of games. Had they swept the two games in regulation as they had set out to do, they'd be entering the New Year trailing Boston by only two points in the standings. Instead, they trail by 10 points and have been swept in their season series against Boston for the first time in franchise history.
"We need to get more desperate," Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. "Guys need to understand where we are in the season and where we are in the standings. We need to start making a move now. We can't continue to wait. We said it before Christmas, it was a huge week, and we blew it and again this week we had two big games coming in against these guys for that final divisional playoff spot. It's disappointing."
Frank Vatrano scored for the Bruins just 1:28 into the contest following a Sabres turnover in their own zone. The Sabres squandered a crucial opportunity to tie the game when they were unable to register a shot on goal during a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:07. The Sabres went 0-for-4 on the power play overall after going 1-for-6 against Boston on Thursday.
"That was a huge point of the game," Bylsma said. "It was a squandered opportunity to get back into the game."
"It speaks to where we're at as a team and how fragile we are," Gionta said.
The Bruins, meanwhile, used a power play in the second period to increase their lead. Patrice Bergeron scored a one-time goal from the slot just two seconds before the teams were set to return to even strength, the product of a failed clearing attempt by Rasmus Ristolainen. Former Sabre Tim Schaller increased the Boston lead to 3-0 prior to the halfway mark of the period with a goal that Robin Lehner admitted he'd like to have back.
The Sabres got a bit of life when Eichel scored their only goal with 21.2 seconds remaining in the second, but they followed it up with only nine shots in a scoreless third period. Tuukka Rask, who has been in net for all four Boston wins against Buffalo this season, only needed to make 26 saves.
Video: BUF@BOS: Eichel wires one-timer through traffic
"We've got to be better in this room, plain and simple," Gionta said. "It's on the guys in this room to be better. We've been better, we've showed spurts where we can do it so we know it's in this room. It's just a matter of finding it and committing and doing it day in and day out."
"You can talk all you want but it's got to come from us," forward Sam Reinhart added. "It's got to come from our compete level coming from the start of the game. We're capable of doing it.
"It's unacceptable, the inconsistency"
Larsson, Gorges leave with injuries
The Sabres were forced to play shorthanded on the bench for most of the game due to injuries to forward Johan Larsson and defenseman Josh Gorges in the first period. Larsson left with an arm injury after going hard into the boards on a hit from Adam McQuaid and did not return, while Gorges did not play after the 8:23 mark of the period due to a hip injury.
"Again, every game's not perfect," Bylsma said. "This one certainly wasn't. They got the early lead, Larsson gets injured early on and only plays a few short minutes, Gorges gets injured and we're stuck with a short bench both on the back end and the forward position."
Bylsma said that Larsson's injury appears to be a dislocated wrist, which would keep him out for weeks.
Reinhart extends his streak
Reinhart's assist on Eichel's goal in the second period extended his career-best point streak to six games. Reinhart has two goals and five assists in that stretch.
The Sabres will kick off 2017 with a two-game road trip that begins against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Buffalo beat New York 4-3 in the first meeting between the two teams at KeyBank Center on Dec. 1, a game that saw Jack Eichel score the go-ahead and game-winning goals in the third period.
The game will be televised nationally on NBCSN, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops between the Sabres and Rangers at 7 p.m.