With their winless streak having reached seven games, the Buffalo Sabres kept the door to their dressing room closed longer than usual following a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night. When it finally did open, it revealed a team that was unwilling to accept the result of another fruitless comeback.
A few late saves from Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk were technically all that separated the Sabres from completely erasing the 5-2 deficit they had dug for themselves in the second period, but Phil Housley was more interested afterward in looking at the bigger picture.
"I think they've got to make a decision internally about playing the right way," Housley said. "Because right now we're chasing games. I really like the fight we had until the end, but when you chase games that's a losing recipe."
Video: HOUSLEY: Postgame
The Sabres certainly got the start they wanted, at one point outshooting the Wild 9-3 in the first period and taking a 1-0 lead when Jack Eichel jammed a puck past Dubnyk 6:55 into the contest.
At that point, Housley said, all they had to do was the stay the course. Instead, Tyler Ennis tied the game with the type of bad-angle goal he became known for during his time in Buffalo and a string of subsequent mistakes led to pairs of goals each for Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.
"In the offensive zone, we turn the puck over when we have a D going down the wall," Housley said. "We have a D getting involved in the play down low, trying to keep a play alive in the offensive zone, and we don't cover for the D. It's these mistakes in the game that are costing us.
"I don't feel like everybody's on the same page. I think guys are taking things in their own hands and this is the result they're getting."
Jordan Nolan scored two goals for the Sabres, including the marker that brought them within one with 6:05 remaining in regulation, while Sam Reinhart also contributed a goal.
A two-time Stanley Cup champion in Los Angeles, Nolan said that creating a winning culture in Buffalo will require more accountability between players in the dressing room.
Video: NOLAN: Postgame
"If I made a mistake in my fifth year, a higher guy was telling me, you need you need to work harder, you need to get that puck in," Nolan said. "Or, you know, Jeff Carter told me a few times when I was younger that I need to work harder or my shifts are too long.
"It's the little things. That's what I learned coming into the league. And I think we are missing that a little bit in this room. But guys are young and I think they need to be told."
Jason Pominville, too, came to Buffalo from a winning organization in Minnesota. He made the playoffs in each of his last five seasons with the Wild and four times before that in his previous stint with the Sabres, an era from which he is the only remaining member.
Pominville echoed Nolan's sentiment that any change for the course of the team has to begin within the dressing room.
"We've had talks. We've had video sessions. Again, that's not on coaching, it's on us," he said. "They can't change it. It's got to be us. It's got to come from us. We've got to be better and I believe that we have the capability to do it but, again, everyone's got to look themselves in the mirror and pull up their sleeves and be better.
"Right now it's not happening and we got to put this behind us and move forward because what's behind us isn't even close to being good enough."
Video: POMINVILLE: Postgame
The Sabres will return to practice Thursday morning in preparation for a back-to-back set that begins at home against Edmonton and ends in Montreal. Their winless streak has them in last place in the Eastern Conference, four points back from the Florida Panthers and a far cry from where they thought they'd be in the fall.
"As a coaching staff, we're going to fight through it," Housley said. "I just think that everybody's got to buy in to the message."
A short night for Johnson
Chad Johnson made his second start in three games for the Sabres, a move Housley said was made in response to the team's recent struggles. After allowing three goals on 13 shots in the first period, however, he was replaced by Robin Lehner to begin the second.
"I'm obviously disappointed I got pulled, but I can't argue it," Johnson said. "Three goals in the first period, with how things are going, it's obviously not good enough. We're not in a situation where we can let in three goals in a game, let alone a period."
Lehner made 17 saves on 19 shots in relief.
Nolan nets his first … and his second
Housley has been imploring the Sabres to shoot from everywhere in the offensive zone, and Nolan's two goals were an example of why. The first, which made it a 3-2 game 2:01 into the second period, was a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that deflected in off the skate of Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin.
Video: MIN@BUF: Nolan buries wrister top shelf
Nolan's second goal was of similar nature, only this time taken from the half wall:
Video: MIN@BUF: Nolan pots his second from a sharp angle
The goals were Nolan's first and second as a Sabre. Jacob Josefson, returning from a 15-game absence, earned the secondary assist on the first goal for his first point as a Sabre as well.
100 for Reinhart
Reinhart's goal in the second period not only gave him goals in back-to-back games, but also marked the 100th point of his NHL career. The play began with a give-and-go pass from Reinhart to Jake McCabe at the blue line, with Reinhart tipping McCabe's return pass at the net front.
Video: MIN@BUF: Reinhart roofs a deflection from the slot
The Sabres conclude their four-game homestand against the Edmonton Oilers at KeyBank Center on Friday night. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7 p.m.