UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Facing a New York Islanders team looking to clinch a playoff berth in front of a raucous home crowd, the Sabres struggled right from the start in a 5-1 loss at NYCB Live on Saturday night.
The loss extended their winless streak to six games.
"It started on the opening faceoff," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We don't make a D-to-D pass on the tape and it comes right back after us. This game wasn't really about X's and O's. It was just about battles. The one-on-one battles, they were heavier.
"They're a bigger team, that's why they're in the playoffs and in the position we're in. We couldn't get pins in the defensive zone, we spent way too much time in the defensive zone and when we had an opportunity to make a play, we didn't make a play."
Video: BUF Recap: Oloffson nets first NHL goal in 5-1 loss
The Sabres were outshot 16-8 in the first period and 38-32 overall. They broke Robin Lehner's shutout when Victor Olofsson scored his first NHL goal on a power play with 6:32 remaining in the contest.
Anthony Beauvillier scored twice for the Islanders. Jordan Eberle, Michael Dal Colle and Ryan Pulock also added goals.
Carter Hutton made 33 saves for the Sabres, including one on a penalty shot for Beauvillier to keep the score 1-0 in the first period.
Video: BUF@NYI: Hutton denies Beauvillier's penalty shot
"I don't know what to explain to you right now," Hutton said. "For me, honestly, I try to compete the best I can. Personally, I'm embarrassed. It's frustrating. I don't want to lose. I want to compete, I want to give this team a chance to win and it's just been frustrating lately.
"That's a good hockey team over there. It's like they came out and we were surprised that they were going to come out hard at home. They pounded us right off the opening puck."
Sabres captain Jack Eichel echoed his goaltender, referring to the team's recent stretch as "embarrassing" and admitting that they were unable to match the Islanders' desperation. He defended his coach, however, refuting the notion that the team has quit.
"We're not quitting on Phil," Eichel said. "We're not quitting on each other. We're just not bringing it. I mean, that's a hockey team right there that's playing to get into the playoffs. From the first shift, we didn't execute. We weren't hard on the puck. Easy to play against. So, this isn't on Phil. This isn't on Phil. This is on us."
Video: POSTGAME: Eichel
The Islanders entered the night allowing 2.4 goals per game, the best mark in the NHL. They showed why on both ends of the ice, establishing their forecheck early to sustain time in the offensive zone and allowing little room for the Sabres to operate on defense.
Between the level of New York's play and the playoff-like atmosphere inside the renovated Nassau Coliseum, it was likely an eye-opening experience for the six rookies in the Buffalo lineup.
"It's a great learning experience, the level you have to get to," Housley said. "Especially on the road in this building, that's a big, heavy team. We've got to reach another level. We've got to keep changing lines, we've got to try and do different things to give our guys a spark."
On the board
Housley placed Olofsson on the right flank of the top power-play unit as an opportunity for the rookie to showcase his dangerous shot, and he delivered when given the chance on a feed from Eichel. He buried a shot from the right circle with Sam Reinhart setting a screen in front of Lehner.
Video: BUF@NYI: Olofsson goes top shelf for first NHL goal
"First of all, I got a great pass from Jack there," Olofsson said. "I saw Reinhart coming around the goalie, screening him. I was trying to hit that far side, and it went in."
Olofsson finished the night with three shots in 11:08. He tallied an assist for his first point in his NHL debut against Detroit on Thursday.
Marco Scandella sustained an injury while blocking a shot in the second period and did not return for the third.
The Sabres entered the game without Zach Bogosian (lower body), Matt Hunwick (upper), Jake McCabe (lower) and Rasmus Ristolainen (illness) on defense, all of whom are considered day-to-day.
The Sabres return to KeyBank Center to open a three-game homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 5:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 6.