The Buffalo Sabres dropped their ninth-straight game Thursday night as the Minnesota Wild skated away with a 7-0 victory at First Niagara Center.
Jason Pominville recorded three assists to lead the Wild, who won their first game since Jan. 2. Mikko Koivu (0+2), Zach Parise (1+1), Kyle Brodziak (1+1), Thomas Vanek (1+1) and Erik Haula also had multi-point games for Minnesota. Devan Dubnyk stopped 18 shots to in the shutout in his first game with the Wild.
Minnesota scored four even-strength goals, two power-play goals and a shorthanded goal in the winning effort.
Buffalo continues to search for answers. Nine consecutive regulation losses is a franchise record. They’ve been outscored 39-9 during this stretch.
“Losing’s hard enough when you lose a tight game. When you get blown out, you get embarrassed in your own building, I feel bad for the fans that come here and support us and we go out there and have an effort like that in front of them,” Sabres alternate captain Josh Gorges said. “They don’t deserve that. They deserve better.”
Forward Nicolas Deslauriers also said the team needed to show a stronger effort and took the boos from the crowd to heart.
“First of all, I think we’re sorry,” he said when asked what his message to the fans is. “Getting booed, for me, it was the first time hearing that and it’s embarrassing. I don’t know what to say. It’s the first time I feel that from the fans and it’s disgusting.”
Deslauriers tried to light a spark when he had a spirited bout against Matt Dumba late in the first period. Buffalo was only down 1-0 at that point, but gave up a power-play goal with 58.5 seconds remaining in the period, crushing their spirits.
“That’s a part of my game I have to bring up except I don’t think I played my A-game still,” Deslauriers said. “I think I could’ve brought a little more. I tried to pump up the guys and it didn’t work, so I have to find another way to do it, by scoring or doing something else. Tonight, nothing was working.”
The Wild came back in the second period and scored three times. Six minutes into the second, Kyle Brodziak scored shorthanded to make it 3-0. Buffalo has given up a League-high eight shorthanded goals this season and has also allowed a goal against while on the power play in back-to-back games.
“The situation we have going here, on a rebuild, there’s going to be nights like that,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “Everything that could go wrong went wrong. Through nights like this, you’ll find the real character of certain guys and who you’re going to move forward in building a team properly with.”
“…I’m speechless. I don’t want to say things I’ll regret saying but on the same thing, we’ve just got to understand what and who is going to make this team go forward from here.”
EBBS AND FLOWS
Buffalo is now 1-12-1 in its past 14 games. Prior to that, they went on a 10-3-0 run to snap out of a 3-13-2 slump to start the year. While the team was able to go on that winning streak, it doesn’t change the dire straits the team is currently in.
“We keep talking about that, a month ago we won games. That doesn’t win us games today,” Gorges said. “We have to understand that every night, it’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be a battle. We’ve got to be prepared for that. And when we’re not, this is what happens.”
To come out of this stretch, Gorges said the players are going to have to unite and make a difference together.
“There’s not going to be one guy that comes in here and magically, everything changes,” he said. “Collectively, we have to decide if we’re going to be a team or not. We talk about this day in and day out. But talk is cheap."
Nolan hopes that three young players in particular – 21-year-old Zemgus Girgensons, 20-year-old Rasmus Ristolainen and 19-year-old Nikita Zadorov – can learn and grow through these tough times.
“The biggest thing is trying to relay a positive image with particularly our young guys. Some of the older players, we’re not going to change. That’s just the way it is,” he said. “But we have a chance to impact – and the one thing here, the game is 7-0 and they put their No. 1 unit on the ice.
“So those are things that hopefully Nikita and Ristolainen and Girgensons, they’ll remember that a year from now when they can give out the lumps instead of taking them all. That’s part of the process.
“When you’re going through what we’re going through, you’re going to get a lot of bumps every once in a while and you’ve just got to remember when you can give them back.”
The Sabres next host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.