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Sabres continue to lack offense in loss to Pens

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Brian Dumoulin let go of a wrist shot from beyond the left faceoff circle and beat Carter Hutton, whose line of sight was blocked by a well-positioned Teddy Blueger in front of the net. 

It might not have been the most memorable goal the Pittsburgh Penguins scored in a 5-0 win at KeyBank Center on Thursday night, but it was the one that stood out to Jason Pominville as an example of where the Sabres were lacking in a third straight shutout loss. 

"That's winning hockey," Pominville said. "That's what we got to get back to. We've got to have more pride to get to that area, get our nose dirty. I mean, it's a tough league to score in. You've got to pay a price to get to the net and we got to get pucks there. Right now, we're definitely not doing it enough."

Video: BUF Recap: Sabres stymied by DeSmith, Pens in loss

The Sabres entered the night with an emphasis on getting to the net-front after going scoreless against Dallas on Tuesday, a game in which they managed to generate 61 shot attempts.

While initial opportunities were there - Conor Sheary and Jeff Skinner both had grade-A attempts stopped by Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith - second chances were once again lacking. 

"That's just where we're at as a group right now," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We continue to talk about getting to zone one, getting in front of the net. I think we didn't do that, whether it was off the rush, we didn't drive and stop there and play the puck. 

"We could've created our own chances more by getting to the net. We got to scrape and claw. We got to get dirty now."

Alternate captain Kyle Okposo did not mince words after the loss, pointing out that the Sabres haven't won back-to-back games since December and deeming their recent stretch as unacceptable. 

"That's the definition of inconsistent," he said. "I don't know what else to do, I don't know what else to say. But we got to find something, we got to find some jam in our game and our attitude and in the way that we approach the game, because that can't happen, especially at home the last two games."

Video: POSTGAME: Okposo

The Sabres have yet to find consistency in getting to the net despite it being a season-long area of emphasis. Sheary said he felt they were too focused on trying to make plays from the perimeter instead of paying the price that comes with making life hard on an opposing goaltender. 

"I think it's a hard thing to do," he said. "You go take a crosscheck, you battle with the defenseman in front of the net. It's hard to get in there and battle like that. I think we just need to have a little bit more of a buy-in to doing that and maybe we'll get a couple goals here."

The Penguins showcased their skill on plenty of occasions in scoring five goals, three of which came on the power play. Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel went tic-tac-toe to open the scoring in the second period. Nick Bjugstad scored with a snipe on the rush in the third. 

Even more so than their world-class skill, though, Pominville thought the Penguins' performance was a lesson in the little things.

"It comes down to compete, pride, and battle, and right now it's not there in the dirty areas," he said. "For us to be successful we've got to roll lines over and be short and not overextend shifts. At times we're doing that, and we look a little fatigued. 

"They're a good example of playing the right way. I mean, their top guys do a great job of playing the right way. They defend hard, they get pucks deep when they need to and, obviously, they can make plays, but they also go to the dirty areas. That's why they've won quite a bit lately."

Video: POSTGAME: Pominville

With 12 games remaining, Okposo was clear in saying that the Sabres have their pride on the line moving forward.  

"Anytime that you put on an NHL sweater, put on a Sabres sweater, you better play with some pride, otherwise you shouldn't f------ be here," he said. "I don't believe that we've lost that, and if guys have, then they shouldn't be here."

 

Up next

The Sabres visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7. 

The team returns home to host the St. Louis Blues at 5 p.m. on Sunday, with autograph St. Patrick's Day themed pucks on sale to benefit the Sabres Foundation. Click here for more information.

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