Stars coach Lindy Ruff said that Saturday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, who own the league’s worst record, scared him. Well, that fear was realized. The Stars fell behind 3-0 in the game and could never recover, losing 3-2 to the Sabres at First Niagara Center Saturday night.
“It’s an embarrassing one to lose,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin. “They competed hard. They capitalized on their opportunities, and we left our goaltender hanging a lot of time tonight.”
Ruff’s concern was that this could be a trap game. His Stars might overlook the struggling Sabres, who had lost 15 of their previous 16 games. But this game looked like a lot of the Stars’ recent losses.
They had a big advantage in shots on goal, 40-24. And they held a wide margin in attempted shots, 86-37. But the Stars couldn’t cash in on enough of their chances against Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who turned in a stellar 38-save performance. And Enroth’s teammates made the most of their opportunities.
“Jhonas played very well,” said Ruff. “We missed the net – and maybe he forced that with the way he was playing – but we did have a lapse on the defensive side of it. That third goal was bad play on our part.”
The Sabres scored three times over a 7:42 span from late in the first period to early in the second period to take their 3-0 lead. The Stars got a second period power-play goal from Seguin and a third period tally from Cody Eakin, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
“We were chasing the game, and it’s just not good enough,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler. “We’ve got to bear down on their chances. We just weren’t good enough.”
John Klingberg tallied two assists, and Anders Lindback stopped 21 of 24 shots for the Stars, who dropped their third straight game (0-2-1). They are 2-3-1 since the All-Star break and are 23-21-8 on the season. They are now seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“It’s frustrating. We’re still in there. We’ve gotten a little help, and we haven’t taken advantage of it,” said Fiddler. “If we are going to make a push, we are going to have to swallow some of these points and put them in the bank. Right now, we are just not doing it.”
Buffalo, which came into this week mired in a 14-game losing streak, won for the second time in their past three games.
“The last three games have been real good, even against St. Louis (3-0 loss), that’s a real good team that we played with for 55, 60 minutes, pretty much,” Enroth said. “This was a solid game. I don’t think we played great, but we played good enough to win. That’s what matters, and it’s always a little bit nicer feeling in the locker room when you get a couple wins together.”
The Stars had a 15-8 shots advantage in the first period, but Buffalo scored the only goal. Defenseman Tyler Myers put a shot on net from the right circle that deflected in the net off Klingberg at the 18:17 mark.
The Sabres extended the lead to 3-0 with two goals in the first six minutes of the second period. With Ryan Garbutt in the penalty box for an undisciplined cross-checking minor, the Sabres scored on the power play. Jamie Benn tried to backhand the puck past Matt Moulson but the Buffalo forward stole it and the result was Chris Stewart setting up Tyler Ennis, who scored from the bottom of the right circle 43 seconds into the period. Buffalo made it 3-0 with a goal off the rush. Stewart and Nikita Zadora set up a wide open Zemgus Girgensons, who tapped the puck into the net from close range at the 5:59 mark.
The Stars finally got on the board with a power-play goal at the 15:23 mark. Klingberg set up Seguin, who scored off a one-timer from the left circle to make it a 3-1 game.
The Stars cut the lead to one midway through the third when Klingberg set up Eakin, who scored from the left circle at the 9:47 mark. But the Stars couldn’t get the equalizer against Enroth and the Sabres. And for the sixth time in the last three weeks found themselves on the short end of the score in a game where they had a hefty advantage in the shots department.
“We’ve been dominating games lately, getting 40 shots on goal, but losing by a goal it seems like,” said Seguin. “Not much time left, but a lot of time left. We’ve got to bounce back and get a big win in New York tomorrow night.”
*The Stars are 1-7-1 in the last nine games in which they have outshot their opponent.
*The Stars are 7-14-4 this season when outshooting the opposition.
*The Stars are 2-6-1 when registering 40 or more shots in a game.
*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with ten shots on goal and 20 attempted shots.
*The Sabres blocked 28 shots.
*The Stars were 1-2 on the power play and 1-2 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 33 of 66 faceoffs (50 percent).
*Jason Spezza won 10 of 15 draws (67 percent). Tyler Seguin won 8 of 13 (62 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 13 (46 percent). Cody Eakin won 6 of 15 (40 percent). Jamie Benn won 3 of 10 (30 percent).
*Stars defenseman John Klingberg had two assists Saturday and now has nine points (four goals, five assists) over his past five games.
*Trevor Daley led the Stars with 22:44 of ice time.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Brett Ritchie, David Schlemko
Injured: Travis Moen (lower body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.