Frustration was the buzzword in the Buffalo Sabres dressing room after a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at First Niagara Center on Thursday.
The Sabres continue to struggle to score, having put in only 10 goals in regulation all season. With the loss, the Sabres fall to 1-7-1 on the season.
Ryan Miller made 31 saves in net for Buffalo.
Coming off their first win of the season on Tuesday, the Sabres hoped to continue to progress. However, a quick start by the Canucks made that difficult.
“It’s frustrating. We had a lot of reasons to build off last game and we just came out flat,” Sabres center Cody Hodgson said. “They dominated the first. They had power play after power play and we just didn’t generate any offense.”
Chris Higgins, Brad Richardson and Ryan Stanton scored for Vancouver. Roberto Luongo turned aside 25 shots to earn the shutout.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston addressed the issue of dealing with a frustrated team in his postgame press conference.
“Frustration is how they do it. If we don’t play the right way, they’re creating their own frustration. They’ve got to figure that out,” he said. “…We’re frustrated, but we’ll get through it.”
Vancouver started the game with a flurry of offensive chances. Their first power-play opportunity came 37 seconds into the game and they recorded eight shots on goal in the first 1:49 of play.
“It started from the first shift on,” Sabres co-captain Thomas Vanek said. “They should’ve had two goals and [Miller] kept us in it. We knew that’s a good team over there, a puck possession team and they showed it early and often. We couldn’t match it.”
The Canucks eventually found the back of the net with 7:51 to play in the period. Higgins scored to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead in a period in which they outshot the Sabres 19-7.
Buffalo’s offense struggled to get started in the second. A penalty to Hodgson put Vancouver on the power play 30 seconds into the period, but they wouldn’t score until later on when Buffalo had the man advantage.
With 8:55 left in the second, Brad Richardson batted a puck out of the air to beat Miller and make it 2-1. A shot from Jason Garrison deflected off Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk’s stick and right up to Richardson.
Buffalo had a goal disallowed 53 seconds into the third period. Hodgson brought the puck up through the neutral zone on a rush with Thomas Vanek. Hodgson fed the puck cross-ice and Vanek took it from the right faceoff circle and roofed one over Luongo.
However, the puck hit the bottom of the crossbar, ricocheted off the left post and out across the goal line, but never crossing it. Vanek and Hodgson celebrated, but upon review, the call was overturned the score remained 2-0.
“I thought from my angle, I caught the inside bar and then the post. Obviously I was wrong,” Vanek said. “…Ryan gave us a chance. It would’ve been 2-1. Overall, they outplayed us.”
Hodgson, on the opposite side of the ice, had a similar perspective. But ultimately, the video replay told the story.
“It was pretty conclusive once you’ve seen the video,” Hodgson said. “It happened so quick in the game, it looked like it was under the bar, but the video shows it wasn’t.”
Vancouver made it 3-0 on a shot by Stanton. As Daniel and Henrik Sedin worked the puck out from behind the Sabres net, Stanton stepped into the slot and wristed a shot over Miller for his first career goal.
Hodgson said that one way to work through this stretch is for the team to simplify its game and to not turn the puck over.
“First of all, I think we need to work on just completing passes. We’re just not sharp,” he said. “We’re putting passes that should be on the tape, we’re putting them a foot away and then they get the puck and they come back at us again. It’s like we just handed them back the game. We have to figure out ways to right the ship.”
One bright spot for the Sabres – as it has been all season – is the goaltending they’ve been receiving from both Miller and backup Jhonas Enroth. After the game, Rolston once again lauded Miller’s efforts.
“He played great again. He played fabulous for us. He’s been our best player since the start,” Rolston said.
So far this season, Miller has made 216 saves on 231 shots against for a save percentage of 0.935.
“We knew we were going to have to be a team that’s going to have to have great goaltending, which we’re getting. And offensively, we just can’t generate much,” Vanek said.
Buffalo continues its three-game homestand with a match against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday at 7 p.m.
“It’s frustrating. You hope we all learn from this,” Vanek said. “Put it away tomorrow even though it’s hard and have a good day of practice.”