For the first 19 minutes of their game against the Boston Bruins on Friday, Ralph Krueger saw the Buffalo Sabres shake off the early rust of a three-day break and settle into their 5-on-5 game.
The Sabres outshot the Bruins in that period, 11-8. They outchanced them at 5-on-5, too, by a tally of 9-4 (according to NaturalStatTrick.com). But a holding call against Marcus Johansson in the final minute led to a power-play goal for Boston's Patrice Bergeron, and Krueger felt the game change.
The Bruins controlled the second period to the tune of a 12-5 shot advantage, which ended with a second goal from Bergeron to make it 2-0. The Sabres pushed hard in the third period, but ultimately fell short in what ended as a 3-0 loss.
Though Bergeron's two-goal outing will surely stand out on the score sheet, Krueger's focus afterward had more to do with the chances the Sabres left on the table.
"There were [enough chances] there to turn this game and we didn't do it, which we have to be angry about," he said. "I thought it was less the two goals against that we were going to dwell on than what can we do to produce more and create more net presence and stick around for second chances and that really cost us the game.
"Boston didn't need many opportunities. They're an experienced team. They jump in those holes and they do damage very quickly. We've got to get that ruthlessness when we felt in the first period we had the upper hand. We need to get ourselves the lead and we didn't do it. That's gonna definitely be a focus moving into the next game against them."
Video: BUF Recap: Home win streak ends in shutout loss
The loss snapped a five-game home winning streak for the Sabres, who will head to Boston for a rematch with the Bruins on Sunday. Some focus in the meantime will be on the status of Jeff Skinner, who left with an upper-body injury following a hit from David Pastrnak in the third period.
On the ice, the work will be geared toward breaking through on offense following two contests with similar storylines. As was the case against Craig Anderson in Ottawa on Monday, the Sabres saw multiple chances taken away by the play of Boston's Jaroslav Halak during a 26-save shutout.
But, also like in Ottawa, the Sabres who spoke after the game had little interest in simply chalking up the loss to a good effort by the opposing goaltender. Captain Jack Eichel spoke of potential solutions for their next meeting with the Bruins, who rank among the league's best teams in limiting offense.
"They're a great team defensively," Eichel said. "Obviously, we knew that going in. They do a good job taking care of the front of their net, they keep you to the outside. That's their game, they do a good job of it. I thought we still had a fairly good amount of chances.
"… You can spend a lot of time on the outside and that's what they want you to do when you have a lot of possession, and I thought we did. You really create those Grade-As when you start cutting and slashing inside of them, and obviously you've got to take the goalie's eyes away."
Krueger once again cited the need for the Sabres' power play, which went 0-for-2, to serve as a spark plug for their 5-on-5 game. But, beyond that, he said the focus between games will be on the details that go into creating second-chance opportunities.
Video: POSTGAME: Krueger
"I would say it's just continue with creating the chances we are, but it comes down to net presence and the way we work around the net, and the way we screen," he said. "We're going to continue to work on those details because what they can't see they can't stop. Maybe they're still seeing too much of the chances we have."
The Sabres conclude the home-and-home set in Boston on Sunday. Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m., or you can listen to the game on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7.