VANCOUVER - In a game that was full of opportunities for the Sabres to put the puck into the back of the net, there's a bit of irony in the fact that the one goal they did get against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night came off the skate of their opponent.
The Sabres outshot the Canucks 27-20 and had multiple scoring chances in front of the net in the second and third periods, but still lost 2-1 at Rogers Arena. Their lone goal was kicked into the net by Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler.
"Fourteen shots in the second period, I think that's how we need to play, how we wanted to play," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We had opportunities to sneak one by to get a goal and that was our mentality. We needed to keep pushing and keep playing that way and didn't come up with it."
Credit Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom, who made 26 saves, for staying strong when the Sabres got in close. Markstrom stopped Kyle Okposo twice on the same play after Okposo forced a turnover and got in alone late in the second period.
Ryan O'Reilly had multiple chances around the net in the third period but he too missed the mark. Shortly after, with 8:37 remaining in regulation, Buffalo finally got on the board. Nick Baptiste took a shot off of a faceoff in the offensive zone. Two Canucks players went for the puck and forced it to bounce into the air, where it deflected off of Jack Skille and was kicked in by Edler.
Video: BUF@VAN: Nick Baptiste's 1st NHL goal
The referee originally waved the goal off under the belief that it was thrust in off the body of Nicolas Deslauriers, but video replay confirmed that the puck hadn't touched Deslauriers and the call was reversed. The goal was awarded to Baptiste, his first in the NHL.
"We've been emphasizing getting pucks to the net and hadn't shot enough in the last couple games," Baptiste said. "I just tried to get it to the net and obviously it was a fortunate bounce to kind of pinball in there."
Baptiste's goal brought the Sabres within one, but their comeback ended there. They spent precious minutes on the penalty kill thanks to calls for hooking and then for having too many men on the ice, and they were unable to tie the game after pulling goalie Robin Lehner late.
Lehner made 18 saves on 20 shots. The two goals he allowed both signaled firsts for Vancouver. The Canucks earned a regulation lead for the first time this season when Jannik Hansen broke a scoreless tie 9:50 into the contest, and they earned their first power-play goal of the season off the stick of Daniel Sedin to increase their lead to 2-0 early in the third.
Sedin's goal was also the first allowed by the Sabres' penalty kill this season. Buffalo was 9-for-9 on the penalty kill for its first three games and 2-for-2 to begin the game on Thursday. They finished the night 4-for-5.
On the power play, the Sabres were 0-for-5 and generated just three shots on goal.
The loss sends the Sabres home from their three-game road trip in western Canada with three points in three games. They won in Edmonton on Sunday, lost in overtime in Calgary on Tuesday and came away empty-handed in Vancouver.
"I thought we deserved better," forward Marcus Foligno said. "Against Calgary, I feel like we handed them that extra point, it wasn't our best game. But tonight [we] just [weren't] burying chances. That's what it came down to. It wasn't like we got blown out of this rink; it was a hard fought game. It's tough to let points slip away early, we want to be a team that jumps out to a good start."
A learning moment for Baptiste
Hansen's goal to open the scoring in the second period came on an odd-man rush that began when Baptiste was unable to handle a stretch pass from Zach Bogosian at the blue line. The puck bounced off of Baptiste's stick back into the neutral zone, allowing Brandon Sutter and Hansen to connect at the opposite end.
Baptiste, now just two games into his NHL career, said the play was a microcosm of the small aspects of the NHL game he's still picking up.
"I don't get that deep and all of a sudden it's in the back of our net," he said. "It's little things like that where I've got to kind of shore up a little bit and I'm gonna do that and work hard at that and bounce back."
The Sabres have the weekend to prepare for their next game, in Philadelphia against the Flyers on Tuesday night. Puck drop for that game, which can be seen live on NBCSN, is set for 7:30 p.m.