After erasing a pair of one-goal deficits, a series of defensive-zone miscues proved costly for the Buffalo Sabres in a 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at KeyBank Center on Saturday.
Zemgus Girgensons scored to tie the game, 3-3, at the 3:28 mark of the third period. The Canucks responded with two goals in the next five minutes, from Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen. Louie Eriksson added an empty netter with 2:12 remaining.
"That's definitely something we can't accept," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "I mean, it was a hell of a hockey game until 14 minutes to go and we turn it into a very painful, unacceptable finish.
"We know how they play, and we respect their skill and the way they push the game offensively. They like to play an open game and somewhere through all that we end up trying to play more their game than our own and gave up on it. It's very frustrating right now for all of us."
Video: BUF Recap: Eichel extends point streak to six in loss
Krueger noted that the Canucks played at one of the fastest paces the Sabres have seen this season. He felt the Sabres stuck to their game in spite of that for the first two periods, which provided for a back-and-forth affair between the two expansion cousins, both celebrating 50th anniversaries.
Brandon Montour opened the scoring for the Sabres. The Canucks responded with a goal from Brock Boeser later in the first period, then Horvat scored his first goal of the afternoon (he would finish with eight shots and a plus-4 rating) in the second to put them ahead, 2-1.
Less than three minutes after Horvat's go-ahead goal, Sam Reinhart tied the game with the Sabres on the power play. J.T. Miller scored again for the Canucks at 1:17 of the third, but the Sabres promptly answered with Girgensons' deflection at the net front.
Video: VAN@BUF: Girgensons tips Okposo's shot from in front
It unraveled from there. Boeser scored his first goal alone in the slot, fed by a pinching Christopher Tanev. Virtanen's goal came on mini odd-man rush less than two minutes later.
"Those things can't happen," Montour said. "It's the time of year here where we need points no matter how to win them. We need those points. And 2-2 going into the third, we've got to bear down and find ways to win those games."
Carter Hutton made 29 saves in his first start since Dec. 19.
"This definitely doesn't go on Carter Hutton," Krueger said. "This is a team loss and needs to be dealt with that way. Carter was making some good saves like we all saw. … To give up on the puck management and the defensive game we need to play has got to be disappointing, but not Carter Hutton."
The Sabres have a chance to rebound in Detroit on Sunday. In the meantime, Krueger said, they'll be taking a hard look at what went wrong.
"It was a good game going on. But just too many individual breakdowns today through the game from beginning to end," he said. "We need to look hard at this. Quick, no time, 5 o'clock game tomorrow against Detroit, but those final 14 minutes we really, really have to put a mirror in front of our faces and figure out why we gave up on what is our game."
A strong game for the power play
While only Reinhart's goal came with the extra man, each of the Sabres' first two goals were products of their power play.
The Sabres spent the entirety of their first power play with possession of the puck in the Vancouver zone, which continued well after Canucks forward Jay Beagle left the box. Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin had spent 2:39 in the offensive zone when they finally assisted on Montour's one-timer.
Video: VAN@BUF: Montour rifles slap shot for an early lead
The power play was just as effective on its next try. This time, Dahlin set up a Reinhart one-timer from the right circle.
Video: VAN@BUF: Reinhart nets one-timer from circle for PPG
The Sabres conclude their back-to-back set in Detroit on Sunday. Coverage on MSG begins at 4:30 p.m. You can also listen on WGR 550, with puck drop scheduled for 5.