DETROIT - Robin Lehner did his part to keep the Buffalo Sabres in their game against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday at Little Caesars Arena, making 30 saves, but it still wasn't enough for Buffalo to avoid their fourth straight loss.
The Sabres entered the third period down 1-0 and outshot 21-10. Ryan O'Reilly managed to tie the game 5:50 into the third, but Detroit quickly took the lead back 2:46 later on a Tomas Tatar slap shot. Dylan Larkin then sealed the deal with 4:06 remaining to give Detroit the 3-1 win.
Buffalo found themselves in penalty trouble during the second period, but Lehner held strong between the pipes and defensemen like Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe came up with key blocks at critical times.
The Red Wings generated seven of their 13 shots of the second over the course of three power plays, including a 26-second 5-on-3 opportunity.
"We've got to be smarter. When we're down one, we can't give them a 5-on-3," Sabres coach Housley said. "But I think it goes deeper than that. I thought we just got out-battled, out-worked and out-competed tonight. At times, we even looked slow and I don't why that is. But we played one game in six nights since then. It's disappointing."
Video: BUF@DET: Lehner denies Mantha with back-to-back saves
While Detroit's power play ended up 0-for-5 on the night, the extended kills stalled Buffalo's efforts and gave the Red Wings a clear edge, especially when play returned to 5-on-5.
Lehner echoed the sentiment that Detroit played with more pace.
"Say whatever you want about the penalties, they were a lot faster than us today," he said. "They forced us to take penalties. We're lucky we didn't get a couple of five-minute penalties there too. We were right it in, 1-0 going into the third. I don't think that result reflects what was happening out there."
When it comes to that speed coming from the Red Wings, Evander Kane said it should have come as no surprise to the Sabres.
"They have some fast players and we were aware of that going into the game. We were too loose and weren't physical enough," Kane said. "We weren't hard on their speed players enough. I think it boils down to we weren't physical enough. In order to stop cycles, stop speed, you've got to sometimes put them on their ass."
Video: BUF@DET: Lehner squares up to deny Larkin
Detroit ended up missing wide on a total of 18 shot attempts the entire game (including a post by Larkin early on), and the Red Wings didn't beat Lehner until there were 55 seconds remaining in the second. Luke Glendenning backhanded a rebound in amidst traffic in front. When the horn sounded to end the second, Detroit was outshooting Buffalo by that 21-10 margin. The Sabres managed only 20 shots on goal the entire game.
"To a man here, we're embarrassed with it. We're not happy," O'Reilly said. "We need a much better effort. The penalties killed the momentum, but there are still things we can do to generate [offense]."
"I think it comes down to getting prepared to play. I think we need more commitment to winning," Housley said. "In a game like this, which I think was there for the taking - but I've seen that when we are committed to winning, we're a really good hockey team."
The Sabres are home on Saturday for Hockey Fights Cancer Night presented by Roswell Park Cancer Institute. They'll host the Carolina Hurricanes at KeyBank Center. All fans in attendance will receive a special Hockey Fights Cancer-themed scarf.
Even with all of the great off-ice events happening around the game, Housley is well aware of the fact that his team needs to come out and put in a good showing.
The Sabres are coming off back-to-back overtime losses on the road and will now enter a stretch that includes six of their next seven games played at KeyBank Center, including the next four in a row.
"We're going to have to right the ship because Carolina's a pretty good hockey team right now," Housley said. "They've got pretty good balance so we've got an opportunity tomorrow to start this four-game homestand the right way. But we've got to come to work"