For the Buffalo Sabres, the key to any potential success going into their game against the Florida Panthers on Friday was simply to repeat what they had done well in their last game, a win at home over Washington on Tuesday night.
The Sabres were able to replicate that effort in the first period, but reverted back to bad habits in what eventually turned into a 4-1 loss at KeyBank Center.
"We didn't keep doing what made us successful against Washington," Sabres goalie Robin Lehner said. "We get these results."
Video: BUF Recap: Okposo nets lone goal in 4-1 loss
After taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, the Sabres allowed four unanswered goals the rest of the way. Evgenii Dadonov scored to tie the game for the Panthers in the second period, Ian McCoshen gave them the lead in the third and Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck added empty-net goals late.
Kyle Okposo scored Buffalo's only goal of the game.
What had made the Sabres successful against the Capitals, and in several of their victories this season, was their ability to stay the course and stick to their game plan. That includes taking what's given to them in the neutral zone rather than forcing plays that lead to turnovers.
They were able to do that for the most part in the first period, and came away with a 1-0 lead to show for it. Okposo scored his goal on the power play by positioning himself in front of Florida goalie Roberto Luongo and tipping a lofted shot from defenseman Victor Antipin.
Video: FLA@BUF: Okposo deflects a PPG past Luongo
But the Panthers outshot the Sabres 15-9 in the second period, earning two power plays along the way. After Lehner made some outstanding saves to maintain Buffalo's lead, Dadonov finally scored on a rebound at the 6:52 mark of the period.
"You play a good, solid first period and you're doing the right things, making the right decisions, and then the second period we made some poor choices," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "Turning pucks over and as a result they turn into penalties and more penalties, and then finally they scored a goal off it.
"All the work that we did and the realization of how we had to play against Washington, you get away from it."
Okposo said the burden of the loss should be placed on Buffalo's forward group. He said they weren't hard enough to play against down low, didn't provide their defensemen with outlets and mismanaged the puck when they had it. Housley said he thought his defensemen did a good job to weather the storm, but eventually they wore down.
"Our puck management in the second period was not good and not where it needs to be," Okposo said. "It's frustrating. We can't string two complete games together. We played pretty well in the first, and they just dumped it in and ran our D all night. We've got to be better as a group of forwards. It wasn't good enough to win."
McCoshen snapped a shot from the point that sailed over Lehner's pad to give Florida a 2-1 lead 3:50 into the third period. The Sabres outshot the Panthers 10-6 in the period, but their comeback effort came to a premature end when Florida netted two empty-net goals in a 17-second span.
"I want to save every goal and I've got to look at it and see what I can do better," Lehner, who made 27 saves, said. "But again, we didn't deserve to win this game. Something's going to go in, and they usually bounce in the right team's favor."
The Sabres fall to 5-9-2 with the loss, and have won back-to-back games just once this season. Their still learning how to play the same way consistently, but Okposo summed up their frustrations with the length of that process afterwards.
"We are where we are for a reason," he said. "We've got to realize it and try and get better every day. It's been a lot of learning experiences this year. I'm sick of learning experiences. It's not fun. We've got to be better on a nightly basis."
Video: Veterans drop the puck
Friday night was Military Appreciation Night at KeyBank Center, with the Sabres honoring servicemen and women during and prior to the game. Veterans Richard Costo, Melvin Quast and Bill Webb, all three of whom served in the Korean War, dropped the ceremonial first puck.
You can read about the trip that Costo, Quast and Webb took to Washington, D.C. with Sabres alumni Danny Gare and Rene Robert here.
The team also wore special camouflage jerseys during warmups, which are currently available for auction at Sabres.com/auction. All proceeds benefit the Buffalo Sabres foundation.
Lehner wore "C. Lehner" on his name plate during warmups as well as No. 43, both of which were to honor fallen K-9 Officer Craig Lehner. He presented Officer Lehner's family with the jersey following the game.
The Sabres will be back at it against another divisional opponent when they meet the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday night. It will be the second meeting between the two teams this season, with Montreal having won the first matchup 3-2 in a shootout.
Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with GMC Gamenight, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.