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Special teams falter in loss to Golden Knights

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

LAS VEGAS - They weathered an early push and kept the game close for most of the night, but special teams ultimately proved to be the difference for the Buffalo Sabres in a 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. 

Vegas built a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal from Jonathan Marchessault and a shorthanded goal from Cody Eakin. The score stuck until William Karlsson tipped in a Marchessault shot with 9:20 remaining in the third period. 

The Sabres went 0-for-6 with the extra man. 

"I think special teams were a critical part of our game," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We focused on that before the game. We knew that they didn't have a power-play goal up to this point and they probably were working on it. We missed an assignment on the PK and our power play let us down."

Video: Condensed Game: Sabres @ Golden Knights

The Sabres entered the night 4-for-18 on the power play (22.2 percent). In three wins, they've gone 4-for-9. They're now 0-for-15 in three losses.

The key to more consistency, rookie forward Casey Mittelstadt said, could be as simple as getting more shots to the net. The Sabres registered eight shots on their six attempts Tuesday.

"I think it gets hard doing the same things," Mittelstadt said. "I think we've just got to start shooting the puck. When you start struggling on the power play you usually try to get too cute. At times for us, that was what it was tonight."

The Golden Knights were returning home from a five-game road trip, which they capped with a shutout win in Philadelphia on Saturday. With a raucous home crowd at T-Mobile Arena, the Sabres were expecting a strong push to open the game. 

They got it. The Golden Knights outshot the Sabres 12-5 in the first period and out-attempted them 21-10. But the Sabres were able to weather the storm until a holding call against Marco Scandella put the Golden Knights on the power play late. 

Marchessault opened the scoring with 1:01 remaining, burying a crossing feed from Karlsson on the rush. An early power play gave the Sabres a chance to turn the momentum in the second period, but a turnover at the Vegas blue line led to Eakin's goal at the other end.

"I think we weren't real sharp with our execution," Housley said. "When we were good coming out of our end we had this push and we had some zone time. But you could see just the lack of execution.

"You can't turn pucks over on this team, they feast on it. They're very aggressive on the transition and they come back at you."

The Sabres felt they could still salvage the game down 2-0 heading into the third, but they were held off the board until Vladimir Sobotka buried a rebound to spoil Marc-Andre Fleury's shutout bid with 36.7 seconds remaining. Marchessault answered with an empty-net goal 24 seconds later. 

Video: BUF@VGK: Sobotka hammers a rebound past Fleury

"At times, we did some good things in their zone and played well but we're just not generating enough offense in my opinion," Sabres captain Jack Eichel said. "It's obviously hard to score goals in this league. Every pass has to matter. I think we're letting teams off the hook a little bit too easily when we have them. 

"It's just something we have to work on. … It's not easy to score goals but we need to work on doing it, playing together as a team. I feel like we're maybe overlapping on each other a little too much, not finding enough speed through the neutral zone. … It's a frustrating loss."


Bogosian returns

Zach Bogosian made his season debut on defense after missing the first five games with a lower-body injury. It was Bogosian's first regular-season appearance since Jan. 9, when he aggravated an injury that led to season-ending surgery on his hip. 

Bogosian skated 16:09 and accounted for four hits and four blocked shots. 


Up next

The Sabres continue their road trip in San Jose on Thursday night. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 10 p.m. with the GMC Game Night Pregame Show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 10:30. 

The Sabres return home on Thursday, Oct. 25 to host the Montreal Canadiens. 

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