CALGARY – The Buffalo Sabres liked the way they played for the first 40 minutes of their game Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.
Unfortunately, there were still 20 minutes left.
The Flames scored three times and outshot Buffalo 15-2 in the final period en route to a 4-1 victory at Scotiabank Saddledome. Johnny Gaudreau scored twice in the winning effort and Jonas Hiller made 17 saves for Calgary. Josh Jooris and Joe Colborne also scored.
Chris Stewart put home Buffalo’s lone tally, a power-play goal that opened the scoring in the first period.
The Sabres have now lost 12 games in a row.
“It’s frustrating,” Stewart said. “We play 40 minutes of good hockey and then we came out in the third and we kind of just crumbled.”
Sabres captain Brian Gionta returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury. He finished with two shots in 14:22 of action.
“[It was a] perfect road game, a good 40 minutes for us. But it shows our fragility there going into the third,” he said. “To lose it mentally, kind of sitting back, waiting for something bad to happen instead of going out and initiating and trying to force things.”
Jhonas Enroth made 27 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have been outscored 53-17 during the losing streak.
“The first 40 was pretty good. I think we were playing with them the first 40 minutes there and then in the third, they obviously owned up pretty bad there,” Enroth said. “We didn’t have much to compete with them in the third there.”
Buffalo was outshot 31-18 in the game. While Calgary’s power play is credited with only one power-play goal, they scored just as the final of their two man-advantage opportunities of the third period expired.
“The first 40 minutes, I thought we did play well. But they turned it up a notch and once they turned it up a notch, we just couldn’t keep up with them in the third period,” coach Ted Nolan said. “But for 40 minutes, I thought we played as well as we could.”
‘WE’VE JUST GOT TO GET MENTALLY TOUGH’
The Sabres continue to look for solutions to their current problems, but the losses continue to mount. Although the Sabres were on a 10-3-0 run prior to the losing streak, they were in a 2-13-2 slump before that.
“If we knew the answer, we’d try to fix it. I wouldn’t say it’s a lack of effort. I think we’ve just got to get mentally tough,” Stewart said. “It’s up to the veteran guys and the leadership group to carry that message and lead by example. Followers will follow and leaders will lead.”
POWER PLAY CLICKING
Buffalo opened the scoring on the power play with 9:27 remaining in the first period. After winning the faceoff, the Sabres cycled the puck and within 13 seconds, a Tyler Ennis one-timer from the right point deflected off Stewart’s stick in front and past Hiller to make it 1-0.
Buffalo had another chance on the power play late in the period and while they didn’t score on it, they maintained some offensive zone time and crisply moved the puck.
Stewart and Ennis each extended their point streaks to three games.
The Sabres have now scored a power-play goal in each of their last three games.
“We’ve got to learn from it and continue to take those lessons,” Gionta said. “The frustrating part, like we’ve said all along is that we know we have it in the room. We know we can play better. We’ve just got to find a way to stick together and not hesitate.
“We’ve got to forget about it. Just go out there and play. At this point of the season, there’s nothing to lose.”
Buffalo is scheduled to practice Wednesday afternoon in Edmonton, but fans who need their Sabres fix before that, should tune into Sabres Hockey Hotline on WGR 550.
General manager Tim Murray will be on the air with Kevin Sylvester and Andrew Peters at 11 a.m. EST.
Buffalo’s next game is Thursday night against the Oilers. Faceoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. EST with the Tops Gamenight pregame show beginning at 9 p.m. EST on MSG-B and Bell. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.