Coming off a 6-1 loss in Washington on Friday, the Sabres returned to KeyBank Center Saturday with their sights set on re-establishing the identity that carried them through the first month of the season.
They felt they did that for the most part against the New York Islanders, though they were ultimately unable to solve Semyon Varlamov in a 1-0 loss.
The Sabres outshot the Islanders, 27-21. Scoring chances were also in Buffalo's favor by a tally of 21-18, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. The difference was an early goal from Islanders forward Derick Brassard, scored from behind the net at 5:19 of the first period.
"We worked hard, we got back to our way from last night," alternate captain Marcus Johansson said. "We just couldn't get it done. I think we worked hard, and we tried everything we had but that's the way it goes sometimes."
Video: BUF Recap: Sabres can't solve Varlamov in 1-0 loss
The Islanders entered the night amid an eight-game winning streak. They ranked sixth in the NHL with an average of 2.42 goals against per game, built on the patient, defensive structure that led them to the playoffs last season in their first year under coach Barry Trotz.
New York leaned on that patient game following Brassard's goal, which went in off the back of Carter Hutton's pad. Hutton was flawless from that point on in a 21-save effort, while Varlamov made his share of grade-A saves as the Sabres pushed in the second and third periods.
"With a lead, they played as well as you can play as far as just blocking and choking up the primary scoring areas," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. "It's hard for guys to get in there with their bodies, but also bringing pucks in. They're excellent getting into lanes.
"We hit a few pucks in and around with the post, crossbar and so on, but we just didn't get enough secondary chances in front of their net, which is what we need to continue to work on to be able to turn a score in a game like this.
"That would definitely be something we just need to find and better ways to get in there and to get underneath a team like this. They're hot right now and you could feel it. We needed to step more to be able to create the offense to get two points tonight."
Video: POSTGAME: Krueger
With the loss, the Sabres are 9-4-2 this season. Captain Jack Eichel echoed Johansson in stressing the need to take this as one game in a season of 82, on a night in which the lone bounce didn't go their way.
"I thought we had a lot of opportunities," Eichel said. "I thought we played hard. I thought we played a good game. I mean, that's a good team game we just played. Give them credit. I think we had a lot of chances and just didn't convert on them. That's the story of the game. I mean, it's 1-0, it's not like we just played a poor team game and they outplayed us. I didn't see it that way.
"I thought we came back after maybe our worst game of the year last [night], I thought we came back tonight and we competed hard. We put a lot on them. They're a really good hockey team. You can talk about their defense, what they do, obviously they make it tough. It's not easy. They're one of the best defensive teams in the league for a reason, but we had our chances."
Montour, Vesey return
Brandon Montour made his season debut after missing the first 14 games with a hand injury sustained early in the preseason. Montour skated 18:57 and tallied two shots.
"I thought Brandon was really strong in showing what he's able to do here," Krueger said. "It was a tough game. The Islanders play a tough, tough, persistent kind of style. We thought he adjusted well and added nicely to the offense, too. We're looking forward to him continuing here to get back right up to speed."
Jimmy Vesey also returned from a three-game absence caused by an upper-body injury. He began the game on a line with Eichel and Sam Reinhart and finished with one shot in 17:18.
Turning back the clock
Video: '70s Night Video
The Sabres celebrated '70s Night throughout the evening. Twenty-one alumni from the franchise's inaugural decade were introduced prior to the game, including Sabres Hall of Famers Jim Lorentz, Rene Robert, Don Luce, Jim Schoenfeld, Jerry Korab, Bill Hajt, Danny Gare, and Don Edwards.
Schoenfeld and former Sabres forward Rick Dudley both joined the broadcast to reflect on their time as Sabres.
Video: Rick Dudley Interview
Video: Jim Schoenfeld interview
Former color analyst Paul Wieland was also on hand to call the second period alongside Rick Jeanneret. Wieland caught up with Brian Duff and Martin Biron prior to the game.
Video: Original PR staffer Paul Wieland interview
You can check out photos from the night here.
The Sabres head to Stockholm, Sweden for a pair of games against the Tampa Bay Lighting as part of the 2019 NHL Global Series. Friday's game is scheduled for 2 p.m. and can be seen on NBCSN. Saturday's game is at 1 p.m., with pregame coverage on MSG beginning at 12:30.
"I think it's great for us to be able to get on the road together, just continue to get closer as a group off the ice," Eichel said. "This is a really unique experience that not a lot of teams get to do. For us, it's really cool. We've got a lot of guys from Sweden and a few guys from Finland, a coach with some European background. I think it's going to be an awesome experience for us.
"It's going to get us an opportunity to spend a lot of time together, play some games in an atmosphere we're probably not used to, and something we'll remember for the rest of our lives. Obviously, we're going over there and we're looking for four points, so it's a great opportunity for us."
In the meantime, stay tuned to Sabres.com and @BuffaloSabres on social media for the latest updates from Sweden.