BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres finally found their offense in the closing moments of Monday’s 3-2 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’ll look for more of that on Wednesday in another home clash, this one against the Minnesota Wild.
The Sabres have lost six games in a row but have something to build on after a spirited finish against the Blue Jackets.
After falling behind 3-0, the Sabres (5-12-4) had an unlikely burst of energy in the third period before nearly tying the game. Buffalo received third-period goals from Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane before Kyle Okposo’s chance with 1:46 remaining came up just short; the puck made it to the goal line following a massive scrum but video review showed that it did not fully cross the line.
“It’s frustrating knowing how we can play, how we can be against really the best teams in the league,” Reinhart said. “We’ve got to find a way to mentally demand more and expect more.”
After several disappointing efforts in recent weeks, Sabres head coach Phil Housley was mostly pleased with his team’s performance against the Blue Jackets.
“I thought we were playing a good three-quarter ice game, we were forechecking,” Housley said. “I think we’ve still got to get more pucks to the net. You can see the goals that we scored, especially the last one, were a result of that.”
Kane has been Buffalo’s most consistent performer this season with 20 points (12 goals, eight assists) in 21 games. Jack Eichel has been shuffled among different lines as of late but has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 21 games.
Robin Lehner made 26 saves against the Blue Jackets and has a save percentage of .903 in 15 games.
After four wins in a row — which included a stretch of three consecutive shutouts — the Wild (9-8-3) are coming off back-to-back losses. Minnesota fell to Washington on Saturday before a 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey at home on Monday.
The Wild are looking for more balanced scoring throughout their lineup. Eric Staal (seven goals, 11 assists), Jason Zucker (11 goals, five assists) and Nino Niederreiter (six goals, three assists) have delivered for Minnesota in recent weeks while the rest of the team has struggled to find the score sheet.
“You’d certainly like other people to score and you’ve gotta believe there’s other people who are going to start scoring,” Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau told the team’s website. “But it’s not hard if you’re the other team and they just check a certain number of guys if the other guys aren’t gonna score.
“To score goals in this league, sometimes you have to pay the price and go to the net and take one off the (head) or take one off the (rear) or something. But if you go to the net, those are the things that are gonna happen.”
Staal leads the team in scoring with 18 points. Devan Dubnyk (.918 save percentage in 16 games) and Alex Stalock (.927 save percentage in five games) have both been excellent in net for Minnesota.