WINNIPEG – The Buffalo Sabres had their four-game winning streak snapped Tuesday night in a city they haven’t won in since 1993.
Nikita Zadorov scored Buffalo’s lone goal in a 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Michal Neuvirth made 31 saves, but surrendered goals to Mark Schiefele, Michael Frolik, Evander Kane and Chris Thorburn. Scheifele had a three-point night with two goals and an assist.
Buffalo’s last win in Winnipeg came on Feb. 10, 1993. They haven’t beaten the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise on the road since Oct. 20, 2010. Buffalo is now 0-5-0 in Winnipeg since the Jets relocated from Atlanta in 2011.
Buffalo had won four in a row coming in and 10 of their past 13, mainly by limiting those types of costly mistakes.
“We just made a couple crucial, crucial mistakes at bad times,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “I liked our first period and then all of a sudden, a couple of big mistakes and we were playing catch up most of the game.”
SPECIAL TEAMS WORK
The Sabres had 3:53 of power-play time in the first period including a 5-on-3 for 1:50. Buffalo capitalized on their third-and-final man advantage of the period.
The first unit consisting of Matt Moulson, Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers saw a bulk of the special teams time, playing 3:43 and generated quite a few quality opportunities, moving the puck well and creating some energy.
However, the second unit produced the goal in only 10 seconds of power-play time.
After a faceoff win by Cody Hodgson, the puck found its way back to the right point to Rasmus Ristolainen, who moved it over across the blue line. Zadorov, the recipient of the pass, stepped up and wristed a shot with Hodgson and Chris Stewart creating traffic in front.
The shot found its way up and in over Ondrej Pavelec with 43.1 seconds remaining in the first to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead. Zadorov, credited with the goal, now has his second tally in three games.
“That power play, even before we scored, I think it gave us momentum and that’s what you’re looking for,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. “We had them hemmed in there, had some good chances, turned the tide a bit and then we just made mistakes. We hurt ourselves tonight, whether it’s odd-man rushes, giveaways that lead to those chances. We hurt ourselves.”
JETS COME BACK
Scheifele tied the game 9:31 into the second period just as their second power play of the night expired, picking the top corner of the net from the right faceoff circle.
The Sabres’ second power-play unit was on the wrong side of things when Winnipeg scored shorthanded to take the lead with 8:35 remaining in the second. Buffalo turned the puck over at the Winnipeg blue line and Jim Slater stormed down the ice on the right wing.
With Frolik skating with him, Slater hit him with a pass on the 2-on-1 to put the Jets ahead.
“It was fun to watch in the first period. We were moving around, had a couple chances and it was fun to watch. Then all of a sudden in the next period, we have a turnover and all of a sudden, it’s a 2-on-1 and that’s a momentum killer right there,” Nolan said. “We know it’s tough for us to battle back and get some goals, but when let up like that, it’s a backbreaker.”
With 5:43 to play in the second, Winnipeg made it 3-1 on another goal from Scheifele. Buffalo had an odd-man rush of their own, but the puck quickly turned back down ice to find the Jets on yet another 2-on-1. This time it was Mathieu Perreault down the left wing finding Scheifele for the one-time shot. Perreault is on a five-game point streak (1+4).
Neuvirth said he would have liked to have made a few more saves for his team on those critical plays.
“We talked about it before the game and we gave up two odd-man rushes,” he said.”They did a good job and I was maybe a little flatfooted and I expected the shot but we’ll see.
Kane made it 4-1 with a power-play goal 1:11 into the third and Thorburn added Winnipeg’s fifth with 7:21 left in regulation.
Buffalo doesn’t play again until Saturday when the Colorado Avalanche comes to town. That sets up a back-to-back set that sees Buffalo playing Sunday evening in Boston. They’ll wrap up their pre-Christmas break portion of the schedule in Detroit on Tuesday.
The game in Winnipeg wrapped up Buffalo’s seventh of 19 sets of back-to-back games this season, which began with a 5-4 shootout win against the Senators on Monday. The Sabres are 2-5-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets and are now 3-4-0 in the second game.
“We’re faced with a lot of them this year and that’s part of it is trying to find ways to get that energy in the second of the two,” Gionta said. “But by no means is that an excuse. We just didn’t come ready to play.”