Phil Housley did not mince words regarding the officiating in a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, a game that included two controversial calls against the Sabres.
The Sabres appeared to have tied the game, 2-2, early in the second period after Jack Eichel drove to the net and passed to Sam Reinhart, drawing a hooking call against Ryan Johansen in the process. Reinhart shot off the pad of goalie Pekka Rinne and Conor Sheary buried the rebound into an open net.
The referee blew the play dead, however, when Reinhart's shot made contact with Rinne's pad. The goal was waved off, and though the Sabres did eventually tie the game in the final minute of the period, the play stood out to their coach as a turning point afterward.
"It's frustrating because we got screwed," Housley said. "… The call that's sort of mind-boggling to me in the delayed penalty call. The ref's sitting right in the corner. It's unfortunate because of what we've been through. Guys played hard tonight, and they get screwed."
Video: POSTGAME: Housley
Kyle Okposo and Jeff Skinner scored goals for the Sabres, who saw their winless streak extend to eight games. Carter Hutton made 32 saves.
The contest began with another borderline call, when Nashville's first goal appeared to go in off the shaft of Craig Smith's stick as he raised it above the cross bar. The goal stood upon video review, with officials ruling that there was no conclusive evidence that the puck made contact with Smith's stick.
Hutton, with a clear view of the play, saw it differently.
"I had a clean look at his shot," he said. "I didn't know if it hit his glove or his stick. Either way, it was pretty high. It was kind of coming at my head."
The Sabres felt their play was an improvement over recent losses, which Okposo said was evident in their responses. They twice erased one-goal deficits, beginning when Okposo cleaned up a deflected shot by Evan Rodrigues in front of the net to tie the game at 1-1 late in the first period.
P.K. Subban stripped the puck from Rasmus Dahlin at the Nashville blue line and buried a slap shot to make it 2-1 just 44 seconds into the second, but the Sabres tied the game again when Skinner buried a carom off the end boards with 4.6 seconds on the clock.
Video: BUF Recap: Okposo, Skinner score in 3-2 loss to Preds
"I liked the way that we responded," Okposo said. "I think that in the previous games, if we had a goal go against us, I thought we just let down and we stopped working, stopped competing. Tonight, I thought we stuck with the game and we made a couple good pushes."
The Predators made their own push to open the third period, rolling shifts in the Buffalo zone until Johansen caught a carom off the end boards and roofed a backhand shot with 13:28 remaining. Rinne did the rest, earning second-star honors for his 26-save outing.
While they did have to calls go against them, the Sabres pointed to other missed areas of opportunity after the loss. They went 0-for-3 against the Predators' sixth-ranked penalty kill, including a four-minute power play in the second period. Hutton also felt his counterpart could have seen more traffic.
"At the end of the day, I don't know, I just think we made it pretty easy on him over there," Hutton said. "He's a pretty good goalie. When he can see it, he's going to stop it.
"… I'm not really looking for moral victories right now, we got to win hockey games. It's frustrating at this time of the year, you know what I mean? We just got to find ways to win."
The Sabres have one more chance to win at home, against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. They'll look to play with the same intensity they brought against Nashville and hope for a better result.
"We talked about these last two home games, and the guys brought it tonight, and we need that emotion and we need that passion on Thursday," Housley said.
"They should be pissed off. We're all pissed off. But we have to, again, garner that and bring that same effort, because if we play like that, we're going to win. It's just unfortunate that we do play like that and we get screwed."
Skinner entered the game with 37 goals this season but just one in his last 22 contests, leaving him stuck on the career-best mark he tallied in 2016-17.
He finally buried No. 38 in the second period, setting a new career-high and matching Gilbert Perreault (1970-71) and Ray Sheppard (1987-88) for third-most goals scored by a first-year Sabre. His 30 even-strength goals were already the most ever recorded by player in his first year with the Sabres.
Video: NSH@BUF: Skinner puts home carom off end boards
Skinner finished the night with two shots and six attempts while skating on a line with Rodrigues and Okposo.
"It's been a while, so it's nice to get a goal," he said. "I think you score to win games, so it's frustrating we didn't get a win. But yeah, personally, obviously it's been a while for me. I thought our line played pretty well tonight."
40 for 55
Rasmus Ristolainen earned the secondary assist on Okposo's goal, marking his 40th point of the season (5+35). He's just the third defenseman in Sabres history to reach that mark in four straight seasons, joining Housley and Jerry Korab.
The Sabres play their final home game of the season against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. It will be Fan Appreciation Night at KeyBank Center, with all fans in attendance receiving a Jack Eichel bobblehead and more giveaways to follow throughout the evening.
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Can't make it downtown? 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.