The Buffalo Sabres proved that it is players, not coaches, that win games after losing to the New York Islanders 4-0 tonight.
The Sabres came out of the gate with energy, partly provided by Patrick Kaleta and Marcus Foligno when both initiated crushing hits early in the first period. However, that energy did not carry over to the second period and the Sabres gave up two goals in the final three minutes of the period, and were booed off of home ice yet again. The bleeding would not stop in the third period, when Buffalo gave up two more goals and looked uninterested in playing for most of the frame.
"We were playing well in stretches, we had a mistake that takes you out of the game. But you still have to score goals," Interim head coach Ron Rolston said. "You're not going to win games (by) not scoring. Still, stretches playing some decent hockey and mistakes that are costly"
The Sabres allowed the domino effect to hit them once again as the decent stretches Rolston pointed out were quickly evaporated once mistakes were made. More mistakes followed and fans responded with more boos in the third period, which has become somewhat of the norm at the First Niagara Center lately.
"The work is there and the care is there right now, it's just, the psyche part of things is the important thing for them to stay on and stay with and stay positive," Rolston said. "We have to continue to show mistakes and the errors that are costly. I think guys are understanding more and more of that. You have to be pretty mentally tough to get this far in hockey, so I think it's more the situation now and trying to fight your way out of it at this point."
The problem for Rolston and his Sabres is that the team doesn't have the time to turn it around with the shortened season and fans are livid with the team's performance of late. Even after two games, Rolston says he feels the pain of the fans.
"Obviously it's disappointing, We don't want that," Rolston said. "But it's our job to play the way we need to, to excite the crowd."
The Sabres went 0-6 on the power play, continuing in another troubling trend. Buffalo had a couple of good chances, but Evgeni Nabokov was dialed in and shut the door on every chance the Sabres had.
"(Nabokov) was pretty good tonight I thought, but so was (Ryan Miller) I thought was really good," Rolston said. "Those are opportunities where we're playing some disciplined hockey where we went on the power play quite a bit and we've got to have one there. Right now, that can be the difference in the psyche of the hockey team because you get a goal there, you get two goals there and now you start to feel better about yourself."
The Sabres did show some emotion in the dying seconds of the game where a scrum involving all five players from both sides erupted. Miller also found himself in the action a bit, and Nabokov skated down the ice to confront him. The two goaltenders did not exchange blows however.
The Sabres also lost Alexander Sulzer in the first period and he did not return to the game. Rolston confirmed that he has a lower-body injury, but said he had no further update on Sulzer's condition.
The Sabres will have the day off tomorrow before traveling to Tampa Bay to Tuesday's matchup with the Lightning. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30.
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