ANAHEIM - Standing outside the locker room following his team's first regulation loss of the season, Ralph Krueger already had his focus turned toward the next game.
The Sabres jumped out to a 2-0 lead inside Honda Center on Tuesday night, but allowed five unanswered goals in a physical, special teams-filled affair that ended as a 5-2 victory for the Anaheim Ducks.
Krueger detailed the areas where he felt the game got away from the Sabres and spoke about turning them into learning opportunities for their next contest, less than 24 hours away in Los Angeles.
"Our reaction is what's important now," he said.
Video: Condensed Game: Sabres @ Ducks
The Sabres opened the game playing the same simple, aggressive style that led them to a 4-0 win over Dallas at home on Monday. Jack Eichel put them on the board with an incredible individual effort at 7:35 of the first period, a play in which he blocked a shot, forced a turnover, and beat goalie John Gibson at the other end. Victor Olofsson added to the lead with a power-play goal less than 10 minutes later.
The Ducks' response began with a goal that was overturned, off the stick of Max Jones with 1:53 left in the period. The Sabres successfully challenged for an offside entry, but Adam Henrique tipped a shot by Rickard Rakell to put the Ducks on the board 33 seconds later.
"We were really pleased with the kickoff," Krueger said. "We thought in every facet of the game, we brought the speed we wanted to, we brought the simplicity, and we were ahead, for sure, for deserved reasons.
"Then we lost the way. It seemed like the no-goal worked almost against us versus for us, like we let our guard down there. The next shift, they got the 2-1 [goal] and we really lost our way then right up into the third period."
Rakell capitalized off a defensive-zone turnover to tie the game less than a minute into the second period. Ryan Getzlaf buried a one-time shot on the power play to give the Ducks a permanent lead, which Henrique added to with his second of the night with 12.5 seconds left before the second intermission.
Jakob Silfverberg sealed the game with an empty-net goal, lofted from his own zone with 3:13 remaining in the contest.
The Ducks set a physical tone during their second-period push. Carter Rowney received a boarding penalty for a hit from behind on Olofsson just seconds after Getzlaf scored to give the Ducks a lead. Nick Ritchie temporarily sent Vladimir Sobotka to the dressing room with a hit well after the whistle, drawing a double-minor along with some jabs from goalie Linus Ullmark.
Each moment drew a physical response in the form of extra-curriculars. The response the Sabres truly wanted, though, was to get back to the type of game they played to start the first period.
"I don't think it affected us as much as we were complicated with the puck," Krueger said of the Ducks' physicality. "We got complicated early in the second period. We had a couple of turnovers that gave them momentum. I didn't feel that what happened then with the physicality really changed the way we were playing.
"It was just the fact that they got a lot of energy out of their goals, about coming back in the game, and we just couldn't turn it and the game got away from us. We're not worried about playing physical. We can look teams in the eyes. I feel there's a lot of courage on the bench there. Nobody shied away from anything and we stood up to it. Again, it's a game to learn from in many ways."
McCabe echoed his coach.
"Just dig in and win battles, win your one-on-one battles," he said. "Get the pucks behind their defensemen. That's what was working for us earlier, then we started playing a little bit cuter of a game and we didn't manage the puck well.
"Now, all of a sudden they're forechecking us and we're on our heels. It's just each guy bearing down and winning each individual battle. I mean, each guy in here battles a different way and that's what it comes down to is individual puck battles."
The other opportunity for response was the power play, an area in which the Sabres excelled throughout their 5-0-1 start. They improved to 10-for-22 on the season with Olofsson's first-period goal, then went without a goal on their next six tries.
"Our power play's been really good for us this year," Eichel said. "Tonight, it wasn't what it needed to be for us to win the game. We had a lot of chances, we just didn't capitalize. Give the penalty kill credit over there, but it's on us.
"… I thought we were maybe a little bit too cute with it, trying to make the fine play. I thought we had some chances and it's frustrating we weren't able to make them pay for taking the penalties. Overall, we just have to learn from this one."
#Goalofsson strikes again
Olofsson's marker moved him into a tie with Edmonton's James Neal for first in the NHL with six power-play goals this season. He also extended his own record as the only player in league history to score his first eight goals with the extra man.
The play was set up by Sam Reinhart, who corralled a rebound and delivered a quick pass through traffic for his seventh point in as many games this season.
Video: BUF@ANA: Olofsson scores again on power play
The California tour continues in Los Angeles on Thursday. Pregame coverage on MSG begins at 10 p.m., or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 10:30.