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Shorthanded goals plague Sabres in loss to Islanders

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

BROOKLYN - So often last season, the power play was the deciding factor when the Buffalo Sabres were able to win games. They finished with the top-ranked unit in the NHL, and seemed to be picking up where they left off through two chances in their opener on Thursday.

Since then, time with the extra man has virtually been a disadvantage for the Sabres. After giving up a shorthanded goal in their opener against Montreal, the Sabres gave up two more in a 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday. 

"I think that we're just letting our foot off the gas," Sabres forward Jack Eichel said. "The power play is a time to outwork the opponent because you have one extra guy on the ice and I think that we're just trying to get a little too fancy and get away from the things that made unsuccessful as a unit."

Video: BUF Recap: Kane scores twice in 6-3 loss to Isles

Trailing 1-0 in the second period, the Sabres gained the extra man after a roughing call against Scott Mayfield. Rather than serve as a springboard for the Sabres to tie the game, the ensuing power play led to three Islanders goals in a span of 1:47. 

John Tavares scored the first shorthanded goal, which was his second goal of the game, after intercepting a Nathan Beaulieu pass in the Buffalo zone. Fifty seconds later, Casey Cizikas raced past Victor Antipin and scored to make it 3-1.

Josh Bailey scored 57 seconds after that, the end result of a 3-on-1 scoring opportunity while the Sabres attempted a change following the conclusion of their man advantage.

"A team like the Islanders, they have a good penalty kill and they put pressure on you," Sabres forward Evander Kane said. "As a guy who kills penalties, you put pressure on other teams to create turnovers, and especially when teams are doing certain breakouts, those turnovers can lead to scoring chances. We gave those up tonight."

Bailey's goal marked the end of the night for Robin Lehner, who finished with 12 saves on 16 shots in 27:00. Chad Johnson allowed one goal on 16 shots in relief.

"It's frustrating because I felt good today," Lehner said. "I felt encouraged going into the second period and I made some mistakes. I've got to come up with a save, Tavares got a breakaway and he beats me and then short after that Cizikas comes in and lets one rip. I feel like I have one but it finds the far corner … then we're on our heels."

Video: POSTGAME: Lehner

Oddly enough, the Sabres responded with two shorthanded goals of their own before the second period concluded, both off the stick of Kane. The first came when Eichel stole the puck from Jaroslav Halak behind the net and fed Kane in the slot; the second came on a wrap-around after a Ryan O'Reilly shot had rung the crossbar.

But Buffalo's comeback effort didn't pick up in the third until it was too late. Eichel scored his first goal of the season on a rebound, but not until Anthony Beauvillier had extended the New York lead 5:39 into the period.

A potential goal for Sam Reinhart that would have made it 5-4 late was waived off when it was ruled the puck never crossed the line, and Cizikas scored his second goal of the night into an empty net shortly after.

Video: POSTGAME: Eichel

The Sabres are now 0-1-1, with aspects of their game they know they need to address. Housley thought his team should have had the jump on New York given the fact that they were fresh and the Islanders had traveled the night before, and they'll need to clean up execution coming out of the zone as well.

The silver lining, of course, is that the season is still young. The Sabres will get another chance at home against New Jersey on Monday.

"You play a lot of games in this league," Eichel said. "You've got to learn from something like this, but as quickly as you learn from it you've got to put it behind you because New Jersey's a good team and were going to have our hands full at home. It's a must-win game right now."


Up next

The Sabres return home to host the New Jersey Devils at 3 p.m. on Monday. It will be a Kids Day at KeyBank Center, with fans in attendance receiving a 2017-18 magnet schedule.

Coverage on Monday begins at 2:30 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. 

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