Sabres roll the low-light reel
Devils make Buffalo pay for mistakes
By John Vogl
News Sports Reporter
One thing has become obvious with the Buffalo Sabres. They aren't good enough to overcome mistakes.
When the Sabres play a solid, clean game, they can compete with anyone. It's shown recently with victories over New Jersey and Pittsburgh, two teams that had been playing well entering the meetings.
But when the Sabres err, they have little chance. Take Wednesday night. The Sabres gave up a huge rebound, lacked discipline at a crucial juncture, turned the puck over in their zone and followed by failing to get it out when given the chance.
The result, as if there was any doubt? A 5-3 loss to the Devils in HSBC Arena.
The Sabres' home woes continued as mistake after mistake doomed them to their third loss in the past four games at the foot of Washington Street.
"We stick to our game, we play our game simple with hard hockey, we're a tough team to beat," Sabres center Paul Gaustad said. "Tonight, we made some mistakes we shouldn't."
Most of them ended up in the net. On four of the five goals, miscues led to the red light going on:
*Travis Zajac gobbled up a juicy rebound served by Ryan Miller to make it 1-0 just 96 seconds into the game. The Sabres cleared a path for Miller to see Mike Mottau's shot from the point, and when the puck got to Miller, he directed it to the slot with his blocker. Zajac whistled it right back past it.
"Teams are really good in this league, and if you're not prepared and not ready to go, they'll take advantage of it," Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta said.
*Disciplined play helped the Sabres in their 4-2 victory in New Jersey on Saturday, but its disappearance allowed the Devils to take a 2-1 lead. One game after staying out of the penalty box, the Sabres trudged to it twice in 49 seconds to set up a New Jersey five-on-three.
Clarke MacArthur, bounced around repeatedly on a long shift, took out his frustration with a cross-check as he went to the bench. Henrik Tallinder joined him after a hooking call. The Devils came through when Zach Parise buried his own rebound with two seconds left on the two-man advantage. It was the first power-play goal allowed by the Sabres in four games and just their second in the past 11. Both came on five-on-threes.
"That's a bad penalty," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of MacArthur. "Our penalty killing has been excellent, but you don't need to take undisciplined penalties the way we took them. They end up catching up to you."
*The Devils' third goal, which gave them a 3-1 lead, came when Bryce Salvador's shot hit the skate of a Sabres player in front. No mistake there.
But the fourth goal was a clear error. David Clarkson swiped the puck from defenseman Nathan Paetsch in the Buffalo zone, and he walked in alone to beat Miller. It gave the Devils a 4-2 lead with 13:56 to play.
*A litany of errors by Maxim Afinogenov allowed New Jersey to widen the lead to 5-2 with 10:29 left. His weak clear attempt was kept in by Clarkson, who then walked right around the winger. Miller stopped Clarkson's chance, but Brian Rolston put home the rebound right in front of Afinogenov.
"We overplayed, made some bad mistakes," Ruff said. "It's mistakes that we typically haven't been making on the road, we make at home.
"We could have easily got the puck out on the fifth goal. We could have easily got it out on the fourth goal, and we overplayed those.
"Ryan had a tough night. We had a couple defensemen that had a tough night."
There were too many tough nights to overcome goals by Drew Stafford, Kaleta and Gaustad. The Sabres have two days to fix them as the Los Angeles Kings visit the Sabres' house of mediocrity on Friday.
"There's going to be mistakes out there no matter what," Kaleta said, "but you've got to rebound from them and work harder."
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