LOS ANGELES – Twice Tanner Pearson was the recipient of a loose puck at Robin Lehner's doorstep, and twice Pearson was able to capitalize. The forward scored twice for the Los Angeles Kings in a 2-0 win on Saturday, sending the Buffalo Sabres home from California having been shut out twice in three games.
The game began very much in the mold of Buffalo's 3-1 win over San Jose on Friday, a physical affair with limited opportunities on both sides. But after the first period ended with the shot advantage 8-7 in favor of Buffalo, it concluded with a 35-23 advantage for Los Angeles.
"I think they started taking it to us, we got away from our game," forward Jamie McGinn said afterward. "We didn’t make them turn. I thought our power play was deflating today, we didn’t get clean looks getting in the zone and then we didn’t get a lot of opportunities around the net."
The Sabres' power play was 0-for-3 on the night and generated just three shots on goal. After Pearson opened the scoring for Los Angeles 4:40 into the second, putting home a rebound off an Alec Martinez shot that bounced off net-front traffic, the Sabres had two chances with the man advantage before the period concluded.
They were unsuccessful both times, and Pearson scored again – this time on a rebound off of Lehner's pad – to secure the two-goal lead for Los Angeles with 6:02 remaining in the third. Former Sabre Jhonas Enroth shut the door for the remainder of the game, securing a 23-save shutout.
"Without a question, I think we haven’t been able to establish any offensive presence with the power play," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "Right from the faceoff to our entries and our possession and then the power play and that’s been a big factor; it's been a draining factor for our team."
The Sabres did have chances to score. Jack Eichel made an impressive play to cut in across the net but wasn’t able to get a shot off in the second period. Prior to Pearson's second goal in the third, Evander Kane raised his hands as if he had scored when he put the puck over Enroth's shoulder, but it bounced across the net.
"We got chances, myself included, that didn’t go in the net for us and that's disappointing," Kane said. "But we can't wait for the period to go down by one or two with 10 minutes left to push or try to make plays at that point.
"We've got to come out and get the lead and play with confidence and not worried about getting scored on necessarily but taking it to the other team and pressing to try and get those first two goals."
The Sabres leave California with two losses in three games, including a 1-0 defeat in Anaheim on Wednesday night. As much as strong defensive efforts were a common denominator in those games, the inability to capitalize offensively crippled what could have been an outstanding trip.
"This road trip we scored three goals in three games," Kane said. "You're not going to win a whole lot of hockey games like that, and you're not going to win three, that's for sure."
A NEW STREAK FOR THE PENALTY KILL
When the Ducks scored their only goal on the power play on Wednesday, it snapped an 18-for-18 streak for the Sabres' penalty kill that had spanned over their previous four games. They killed the next two power plays that night, however, and after a penalty-free game in San Jose were 2-for-2 against the Kings on Saturday.
Buffalo allowed just three combined shots on goal on the two Los Angeles power plays. Their perfect night improved their season success rate to 82.7 percent, leapfrogging them past the Boston Bruins for ninth in the NHL.
NO GOAL, TWICE
The Kings had two would-be goals waved off in the victory, first when Anze Kopitar tipped a puck into the net with a high stick and later when Dustin Brown put the puck in on a feed from Kopitar immediately after he tripped forward Johan Larsson near the net.
"It was a pretty tight game, a pretty tight checking game and not a lot of opportunities either way," Bylsma said. "They did have the high stick that wasn’t counted and the penalty to Brown, but I think it's more about the opportunities that we didn’t cash in on with what we had."
HOME SWEET HOME
The Sabres will return to Buffalo for a three-game homestand, beginning against Edmonton Oilers on March 1 at First Niagara Center. The game will pit the top two picks in the 2015 Draft – Buffalo's Eichel and Edmonton's Connor McDavid – against one another for the first time.
Coverage on Tuesday begins at 7 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550, with Rick Jeanerette returning to the broadcast booth to call the game alongside Rob Ray.