CALGARY - A blue and gold sign hung outside the visiting dressing room at Scotiabank Saddleome on Tuesday where the players walk out into the tunnel to take the ice. On it, in big bold letters, was a three-word phrase: "Expect to win." That's become a mantra for a Sabres team looking to take the next step toward playoff competitiveness. With that in mind, an overtime point on the road was of little solace to them after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames.
The Sabres gave up two third-period leads and missed on their scoring chances in overtime, paving the way for Sean Monahan to score the game-winning goal 2:26 into the extra period.
"It's definitely the feeling in this room is we expect to win every night," said Marcus Foligno, who scored in the third period. "Tonight's a frustrating game. We have two leads and to blow them or just to give them up, it's tough. It's the way the game goes but it's the mentality of this dressing room that we always have to keep pushing."
There were no excuses made by the Sabres, but there was discontent in the way the game ended. Monahan's game-winning goal was preceded by a hit-from-behind by Monahan against Sam Reinhart, which forced a turnover and extended the Flames' possession of the puck in the offensive zone.
Video: Condensed Game: Sabres @ Flames
"Honestly, there has to be a call there," said Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, who allowed four goals on 34 shots. "He hits him from behind, it's fairly clear. We get judged day-by-day and I think it was a terrible ref performance."
In addition to Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons and Ryan O'Reilly also scored goals for the Sabres. Buffalo was outshot 34-21, and former Sabre Chad Johnson only needed to make 18 saves to earn his first win as a Flame.
With that being said, the Sabres still held a lead after Foligno's goal 3:49 into the third period. Matthew Tkachuk, the No. 6 pick in this summer's draft, tied the game with his first NHL goal 63 seconds later, skating hard down the left-wing side and snapping a shot that beat Lehner on the near side.
"I just think they had a little bit more jump than we did today," Lehner said. "I think they looked a little faster. When we kept it deep and kept grinding at certain moments of the game it looked pretty good, but deviate from that and they kind of took over."
Despite the loss, the reality is that the Sabres have taken three points in two games in western Canada. They have a chance to go home with their heads held a high with a win in Vancouver on Thursday, a game they'll expect to win like any other.
"We've got a practice day tomorrow so it's back to the drawing board and making sure practice is light and the guys are up for a game in Vancouver, "Foligno said. "We got a point out of here tonight, we can't hang our heads too low, but it's definitely something where we've got to go to Vancouver now and finish off a good road trip."
Foligno, fired up
Foligno was visibly upset when his pass from the wall deflected off of a referees' skate and led to Michael Ferland's goal that tied the game at 2-2 in the third period. Cleary that adrenaline remained on his next shift, because he did this:
Foligno shredded the Calgary defense and sniped a shot past Johnson for his first goal of the season to regain the lead with 16:11 remaining.
"It was emotionally up-and-down," Foligno said. "You're at a low with the bad bounce, goes off the ref's skate and goes to their player, and in my case I thought it was the right play to make. You can yell all you want but the ref has the right to be there … You suck it up and are more determined the next shift so I'm happy I got it back."
Girgensons gets on the board
Girgensons had a chance to find the back of the net on his very first shift Tuesday, but was unable to capitalize. Dmitry Kulikov joined the rush and made a perfect pass across the net to an open Girgensons, stationed at the back door. Girgensons had an open cage, but tapped it wide.
When he got a second chance later in the period, he was sure to capitalize. Girgensons made a play in the corner to free the puck and skated to the net-front. Tyler Ennis put his puck skills on display, changing direction along the wall to lose his man and reaching a pass around TJ Brodie to his Girgensons for a tip-in goal.
Video: BUF@CGY: Girgensons opens the scoring with wrist shot
Three for O'Reilly
The Sabres had yet to put a shot on net through 10 minutes in the second period when the line of Marcus Foligno, Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta - instrumental in the win over Edmonton on Sunday - turned the period around with one of their best shifts of the night. The trio forechecked long enough to not only generate a scoring chance for Gionta, but also for Foligno to draw an interference penalty and put the Sabres on the power play.
It was on that power play that O'Reilly gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead with his team-leading third goal and fifth point of the season. O'Reilly took a long shot that was saved by Johnson but deflected back into the net off of Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Video: BUF@CGY: O'Reilly puts the Sabres back on top
Penalty kill stays hot
The Sabres are a perfect 9-for-9 on the penalty kill to begin the season after a 6-for-6 night against the Flames. That, combined with a 24-for-27 preseason that ranked eighth in the League, is a pretty good start.
As was the case last season, O'Reilly has led the way on the penalty kill and skated 4:30 of shorthanded ice time against Calgary. Twice he drew penalties against the Flames while on the kill. He drew a high-stick in the second period midway through a 5-on-3 penalty kill and then drew another on a 4-on-3 in the third.
With two men in the box for the Sabres who were due to come out at the same time, that latter penalty drawn by O'Reilly actually set the Sabres up for nearly a minute of 5-on-3 time of their own, but they were unable to capitalize and take the lead.
"I was happy with our penalty kill, I thought we did a great job," Bylsma said. "I think probably the disappointing part of the game was getting the 5-on-3 there and not being able to really cash in with a goal in that situation."
An odd goal
Michael Frolik's goal to tie the game late in the first period was initially waved off, but the referees huddled up and reversed the decision. It turned out that a whistle had been wrongly blown prior to the goal being scored - which typically would mean that the play was dead - but the referees chose to award the goal.
"They had blown the whistle before the puck went in the net but the puck had not been covered yet. That was just the explanation," Bylsma said. "I think it was the right call. It's disappointing for us because they did blow the whistle."
3,500 for Rip
It was the unparalleled 3,500th game for legendary equipment manager and Sabres Hall of Fame inductee Robert "Rip" Simonick, who has been with the franchise since its inception in 1970. Simonick was congratulated on the big board at the Saddledome in the first period.
You don't want to miss his pregame interview with another franchise legend, Hall of Fame broadcaster Rick Jeanneret, which you can watch below.
Video: Rip Simonick's 3,500th Game