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Missed chances cost Sabres in loss to Penguins

McCabe, Johansson score goals in 4-2 defeat

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Marcus Johansson laid it out plain and simple following a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at KeyBank Center on Thursday. 

The Buffalo Sabres turned in strong stretches, including a second period that coach Ralph Krueger felt was one of their best of the season. The difference between winning and losing, Johansson said, was not being able to finish their chances. 

"We definitely created enough chances to score goals and I think for a lot of that game we were the better team," Johansson said. 

"Second period, we played really well and we pressured them and pushed them back but we come out emptyhanded out of that period and it's frustrating when it's like that but, you know, winning hockey games you've got to score more goals than the other team and we didn't do that."

Video: BUF Recap: McCabe, Johansson score in 4-2 home loss

Johansson and Jake McCabe scored goals for the Sabres, both of which cut the team's deficit to one. In each instance, the Penguins responded with goals of their own within the next five minutes. 

The Sabres went 0-for-3 on the power play, falling to 0-for-13 in their last six games. They have scored two goals or less in each contest during a five-game winless streak that dates back to their loss in Colorado last Tuesday. 

Buffalo had won five of six games before the loss to Colorado and was held to less than three goals just once in that span. 

"I think we've had some good games, some good stretches," McCabe said. "If you want to go through these last five games, I think it starts with the first two games of the road trip, we had tie games going into the third period and we've been playing some good hockey and then we lose those. Those are two emotional losses and [we] just haven't seemed to find our groove again."

Krueger said the second period, which opened with the Sabres trailing 2-1, was indicative of the way they want to play consistently. They generated the first six shots of the frame thanks to quick puck movement out of their own zone and, by extension, limited possession time for the Penguins. 

"When we do that it feels fast and we feel fast and it's threatening for the other teams as you saw it was there," Krueger said. "We had eight, nine top scoring chances in the second period but we don't bury any and so when you're not getting rewarded for that it's tough to sustain that. 

"We let up a touch in the third and we just never got that exact drive back. But, again, there's signs there of the game we need to play and the game we need to work to carry out for 60 minutes."

Video: POSTGAME: Krueger

The Sabres outchanced the Penguins, 9-0, at 5-on-5 during the second period (according to Natural Stat Trick). Yet it was Penguins who scored the period's lone goal, a power-play marker by Patric Hornqvist that deflected in off the stick of goaltender Jonas Johansson. It was Pittsburgh's first shot of the period. 

Marcus Johansson brought the Sabres back within one when he finished a pass from former Penguins forward Dominik Kahun less than two minutes into the third period. Sidney Crosby scored off a backhand shot to restore the two-goal lead with 13:58 remaining. 

"It's fighting up a big hill right now," Krueger said. "But more than anything, it's our offensive production that's causing us the pain. It's the lack of being able to score on the power play and 5-on-5 right now with the chances we have. 

"What can we do? We have to just keep working. We have to keep creating those chances and look to work for the uglier goals and that's going to be our only way into success here."

 

Goalie interference costs Sabres

The Sabres came out on the wrong end of two goalie interference calls in the game, both of which led to goals for Hornqvist. The first came on the Penguins' first goal of the night, which saw Hornqvist score on a backhand shot after Nick Bjugstad drove into Jonas Johansson and sent the goalie down to the ice. 

Buffalo challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the call on the ice stood. Officials ruled that McCabe and Curtis Lazar - who were defending the play - were responsible for sending Bjugstad into Johansson. 

"I was quite stunned," Krueger said. "I mean, we reviewed it about six times and they're claiming that we knocked [Bjugstad] in but there was a normal altercation. It looks like his hands are out in front of him.

"But, you know what, they look at it in real time supposedly when they make those decisions and for us it's the second time where we haven't had one turned over that we thought was quite clearly goaltender interference. But it is what it is, and we needed to recover. We did and just didn't do enough after."

The Sabres later saw their strong start to the second period end with a goaltender interference call against Johan Larsson. Hornqvist made it 3-1 on the ensuing power play. 

 

Kahun tallies a point against former team 

Kahun admitted he was a bit nervous given the multitude of circumstances surrounding the game. Not only was it his home debut with the Sabres; he was playing the team that traded him just 10 days ago. 

The 24-year-old was able to stay productive, earning his third point in four games with Buffalo when he set up Johansson on a rush in the third period. 

Video: PIT@BUF: Johansson beats Murray to trim deficit

"He's an unreal player," Johansson said. "I think he's so good with the puck and he sees the ice really well. He holds onto it and makes plays so it's fun to play with him."

 

Up next

The Sabres visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. or you can listen on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7. 

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