LOS ANGELES – Goals are tough to come by for the Buffalo Sabres right now.
They couldn’t find the back of the net against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday at Staples Center, falling by a score of 2-0. Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar were the goal scorers for Los Angeles. Jonathan Quick made 29 saves to earn his 33rd career shutout – a new Kings franchise record.
Buffalo has now been shut out in three of its past four games. They managed to put home a late-third period goal against Anaheim on Wednesday to avoid going scoreless for three games in a row.
Forward Chris Stewart has a 28-goal season under his belt, but is still sitting without one through eight games this year. After the loss in Los Angeles, he took much of the burden upon himself.
“It’s three games and no goals. That’s a big problem,” he said. “The onus is on me. That’s one of my jobs to do that and I’m not doing it. We need to go back to the drawing board and get ready for San Jose.”
Ted Nolan and the Sabres coaching staff have worked to improve the team’s effort level in both practice and in games. Now that the team pretty much is in the right mindset when it comes to focusing on that, they want to see better decisions made on the ice.
“I think our intention’s there, our work ethic’s there. We’re not doing the smart things right now,” Nolan said.
“We’ve got a lot of guys driving by the net, not stopping in front of it. You look at this team here tonight, they throw pucks and bodies at the net all the time. We’re not a fancy team. We get across the blue line, we want to pass the puck for some reason.
“It’s just coming out of that mental funk that we’re in and we’ve got to do some simple things and get out of this together.”
Buffalo has eight goals so far this season and they’ve been scored by only four different players.
“It’s frustrating. I get the feeling that’s we’re just happy to be in games. That’s just not good enough,” Stewart said. “We’ve got to want to win. Not just be happy to be down 2-0 to a good team. We’ve got to get more desperation in us. We’ve got to play like our life’s on the line until we can do that consistently, we’re not going to start winning games.”
NO LET UP
Right off the bat, the Kings found success on the power play. With Tyler Myers in the box for holding 29 seconds into the game, the Kings capitalized seven seconds later when Carter ripped one home from the point. Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth was screened by Kings rookie Tanner Pearson on the play.
Enroth rebounded from the tough start and ended up making 37 saves.
“I can just speak for myself, I’m trying to be a mental warrior, I call it,” he said. “I’m trying to focus on my next shot. I doesn’t matter what happened, if I gave up the first shot or not. I’m just going keep battling for 60 minutes and see what happens.”
The Kings took a 2-0 lead while on the power play with 4:19 remaining in the second. Kopitar won a battle against Tyler Ennis along the boards along the blue line and moved the puck down to Carter in the corner. Carter passed it back to Kopitar, who moved into the slot and beat Enroth with a low shot.
Even with the lead, Los Angeles didn’t let up. They had many good chances in the third period and it became a pretty wide-open affair in the final 20 minutes.
“I think that’s how championship teams play. Look at Chicago when we played them, they kept going. They didn’t slow down in the third period,” Enroth said. “L.A. is a great team too and they step on the gas too. They don’t sit back and protect the lead. That’s how I think you should play when you’re up a couple goals.”
A DIFFERENT LOOK
Nolan decided to adjust the lineup heading into the game. Scratched were forwards Sam Reinhart and Brian Flynn and defenseman Tyson Strachan. Since Buffalo is carrying 13 forwards and eight defensemen on the active roster, that meant seven defensemen dressed against the Kings.
Nikita Zadorov, the 16th overall pick in last year’s draft, made his season debut after sitting out the first seven games of the year as a healthy scratch. He rotated in and played 6:12.
The Sabres tried to roll three lines for much of the game and rotating forwards Cody McCormick and Nicolas Deslauriers in periodically.
Before the game, Nolan said Reinhart would be back in the lineup Saturday afternoon against the San Jose Sharks.
A VIEW FROM ABOVE
The Sabres coaching staff also shifted some of their own personnel around for the game. Assistant coach Bryan Trottier moved up to the press box for an aerial view while assistant coach Tom Coolen helped give direction from the bench.
“We’re giving up shots when we shouldn’t be giving them up. We’re not coming back deep enough when we should. We’re not angling properly,” Nolan said. “So I got Bryan to look at a few guys and have heart-to-heart discussions with those guys tomorrow.”
Nolan had the opportunity to coach against his son, Kings forward Jordan Nolan, for the first time.
“It was a bit strange,” Nolan said. “When he was on the ice, you wanted to watch to see how he did, making sure he does OK because when we talk in our family, playing OK is not good enough. You have to be better than OK and tonight, I thought he was better than OK. It was a good game for him.”
ON THE WAY TO SAN JOSE
The Sabres left after the game for San Jose, where they’ll play the Sharks on Saturday. The Tops Gamenight pregame show will begin at 3:30 p.m. EST on MSG-B and Bell TV and faceoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
“We’re going to learn a lot about the guys in this dressing room,” Stewart said. “We can pack it in and go home 0-3 or show some dignity and earn some respect and get two points in San Jose.”