Despite a surprising 4-2 victory over Boston Thursday night, the Buffalo Sabres once again became victims of the New York Islanders in a 5-2 loss Friday night at HSBC Arena.
Nathan Gerbe scored both Buffalo goals. The two were netted five seconds apart, which gave the 5-foot-5 rookie a Sabres franchise record. Gerbe’s tallies top Derek Plante’s pair within 10 seconds.
Unfortunately for Gerbe, his late third period penalty put the Sabres at a disadvantage and gave the Islanders a chance to capitalize-and they did.
“I got to be more disciplined and help the team more by staying out of the box. I just want to work hard, improve every shift, and be a big part of this team,” said Gerbe, who was not at all interested in discussing his pair of goals.
He already is a big part of his team. In the past few games, both he and Tyler Ennis have been the top point-getters, Ennis with three and Gerbe now with seven. Not too shabby in their rookie season.
It’s safe to say the Sabres lost the game early on when the Islanders made the score 2-0 halfway through the first 20 minutes of play. After a scramble behind the Buffalo net, Michael Grabner turned the puck loose in front. Too bad one of his own teammates wasn’t there to pop it behind goaltender Ryan Miller — but Sabre Tyler Myers was. The puck bounced off Myers’ skate and into the net, giving Grabner his 13th credited tally of the season and his fourth in his team’s past five games. Myers was simply left with embarrassment. But the game must go on, right?
And go on it did; however, not in Buffalo’s favor. After New York won the face-off to Miller’s right side, Andrew McDonald waited at the point for the pass from defenseman Travis Hamonic. McDonald ripped a shot from the point, and Matt Moulson was parked in front at the right time to tip the puck in for his 15th goal of the year at 10:30.
At this point in the game (remember, it was only about ten minutes in), Sabres head-coach Lindy Ruff made a roster adjustment by pulling out Miller and sending out backup netminder Patrick Lalime, who hasn’t been between the pipes since December 17th against the Florida Panthers. Ruff’s move begged a few questions, such as “Was Ruff disappointed in Miller’s play thus far?” and “Why start Miller in the first place only to pull him out at the start of the game?” Ruff addressed his reasoning in his post game press conference.
“I thought Lalime made some good saves,” he said. “[Pulling Miller] had not one thing to do with Millsey. [I thought it was a] good time to give Patty some time.”
Then why not just start Lalime in the first place?
The Islanders extended their lead by three 14:35 into the middle frame. John Tavares, having earned a hat-trick in his club’s last meeting with Buffalo, received an assist on PA Parenteau’s 12th tally of the year. Parenteau was chillin’ all alone in front of the Sabres’ net and roofed one instantly past Lalime upon Tavares’ clean pass.
So where was the Buffalo defense? Great question. Some were covering Tavares, while others skated in huge circles back around the blueline, not being where they needed to be in time to cover Parenteau. Yet, they expect the Isles not to score. It’s not fair for Lalime to have no help in front of the net. He had absolutely none on this third Islander goal. None at all.
Says Ruff, “We didn’t make some good decisions.”
The lack of effort on the part of defensemen is one of them, one that consistently has been an issue yet remains to remain resolved for more than one or two games at a time, if that.
With nearly five minutes remaining in the matchup, Jack Hillen netted another goal for the Isles. After Long Island’s goaltender, Kevin Poulin, denied Sabre Jochen Hecht, the loose puck was fired out of the Buffalo zone by Rob Schremp. Blake Comeau gained possession just inside the Buffalo blueline and skated up the ice with Hillen. After Comeau then sailed the puck between Sabre defensemen Jordan Leopold and Steve Montador, Hillen wristed it. Lalime made the initial stop; however, Hillen tipped in his own rebound to give the Isles a four-goal advantage. The final minutes of the contest were not looking promising to the Sabres.
Leave it to the shortest player on the team, Gerbe, to shed some light on an otherwise upsetting loss. With less than four minutes to go, Gerbe flew up the ice, whizzing through numerous New York players, and backhanded the puck past Poulin. The tally was his fourth of the year.
Gerbe’s franchise record was made five seconds later with his fifth goal. After the face-off, Mike Grier picked up the puck and dished it to Gerbe, who snapped it in the Islander net to bring the Sabres back within two. The rookie was clearly the best Sabre on the ice last night, for obvious reasons.
But Gerbe’s goals came too late in the game for Buffalo to knot the score at four and force an extra period. Not to mention, the little guy found his way to the penalty box on a slashing call for the final minutes-something he wasn’t proud of. The Sabres also suffered from a too many men on the ice infraction as Lalime was heading to the bench, so the Isles gained a 5-on-3 player advantage.
Even after Gerbe’s penalty was up, the Isles sent snipers to fire shots on the empty Buffalo net. After the Sabres miraculously managed to deflect many attempts (who would’ve thought), Grabner’s finally succeeded when he put one past Marc-Andre Gragani, who was playing goalie. The goal was Grabner’s second of the evening and solidified a 5-2 win for the Islanders.
The Sabres were no doubt frustrated beyond belief with their second loss to the Islanders in the past nine days.
“In our last loss we did the same [thing] in the third. It needs to be a 60 minute effort,” said Jason Pominville.” We can’t afford to play 20 or 30, it just needs to be better. We had a lot of opportunities. You have no idea how frustrating it is. You don’t always want to show your emotions, and on the inside you have that burn where you feel you could’ve helped the team.”
Guaranteed that burn was inside every Sabres after this loss. They didn’t take advantage of opportunities, were unable to effectively pick up rebounds, and weren’t confident in themselves as individuals and as an entire team. No one can win with that attitude.
What the Sabres need to do now is convert the burn inside themselves to one of passion and determination, one that will focus on doing whatever it takes to win without striving perfection. Buffalo analyst Mike Robitaille stated that once the team started becoming frustrated, they started trying to make the perfect passes to score perfect goals. Play hard and to the point. Don’t waste time trying to make the perfect plays. Just get it done.
Buffalo has a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow night, as they journey to Long Island to once again take on the Islanders. Puck drop is slated for 3 p.m.