WASHINGTON, D.C. - In the end, the Sabres looked back on their 6-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday and could trace it back to a brief stretch in the first period.
The Capitals built a 4-0 lead all within a span of 4:27. The run began with a breakaway goal from Jakub Vrana, continued 42 seconds later with a goal from Chandler Stephenson on a 3-on-1 rush, and finished with one-time goals from Vrana and Brendan Leipsic.
Against the only team ahead of them in the league standings, it created a hole the Sabres were never able to climb out of.
"We're disappointed with what happened in the first period, of course," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "We got away from the game, the simple game and the decisions we needed to make with the puck. We gave them, really, everything they got in the first period and we had some excellent opportunities that we didn't capitalize on.
"It could have been definitely a different game. We could have used some of those early chances. But at the end, we have to be disappointed with the first period. We just couldn't climb back into this one."
Video: Condensed Game: Sabres @ Capitals
The Sabres rebounded and went on to out-chance the Capitals in the first period, 14-9 (according to NaturalStatTrick.com). Braden Holtby turned away scoring chances from Jack Eichel, Conor Sheary, and Evan Rodrigues, among others. A Colin Miller shot deflected off the post in the final minute.
Buffalo finally solved Holtby at the 10:40 mark of the second period, when Henri Jokiharju sent a shot through traffic that went in for his first NHL goal. But Tom Wilson tipped a shot past Ullmark to restore Washington's three-goal lead 6:13 later, and T.J. Oshie capped the scoring late in the third.
With a visit from the New York Islanders - winners of eight straight games - coming in KeyBank Center in less than 24 hours, the Sabres have the benefit of needing to turn the page quickly. Krueger said they would fly back to Buffalo, get a good night's sleep, then head to the rink with an eye toward learning from their game on Friday.
Namely, they'll look to reinforce the principles they're still looking to establish as habits in the early part of the season. That includes simplicity with the puck on offense and consistency in their coverage on defense.
"Everybody knows that Washington's an unbelievable team and for us to make some of the errors we did, possibly, to get punished today will help us to be better the next time we play top teams or teams with this kind of quality," Krueger said. "I think today is definitely a game to learn from."
Forward Kyle Okposo echoed his coach in the locker room after the game.
"I just think the thing you take from this is we've got a long way to go," Okposo said. "I just think our game's been just slipping a little bit. We've been playing some pretty good hockey most of the time, maybe getting away with 10 minutes here and there. Tonight, we didn't.
"I think we've just got to get back to basics but hopefully it's a wakeup call and tomorrow night we come ready to play."
Video: POSTGAME: Krueger
If there was a silver lining within the game on Friday, it was team's reaction following the difficult first period stretch. Holtby kept them from closing the gap on the scoreboard, but Okposo and Krueger both felt the conversations in the room between periods were open and direct.
They'll look to carry that over into Saturday. The Sabres responded to each of their two prior regulation losses this season with shutout victories the following night.
"We've done a good job of responding from games we don't like and luckily it's a quick turnaround," alternate captain Jake McCabe said. "Tomorrow night we're right back at it, which is a great thing for us. We're competitive. We want to get back at it.
"We know we have a lot more to give than we had tonight. Get back to our game tomorrow night on our home ice."
Jokiharju nets first goal
The first goal of Jokiharju's NHL career came on his fifth shot of the night, an attempt from the point that deflected in off Capitals defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler.
Video: BUF@WSH: Jokiharju scores first career NHL goal
"Obviously that moment is filled with happiness and it was fun to score, but obviously after this kind of game it's not that big of a memory right now," Jokiharju said. "Probably a little bit later."
The Sabres return home to host Islanders on Saturday. It will be '70s Night at KeyBank Center, with more than 20 alumni scheduled to be in attendance. Find the full list along with more information here.
Can't make it downtown? Pregame coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. You can also listen on WGR 550, with puck drop scheduled for 7.