At a certain point, you just have to put the puck in the back of the net. You can amass all the shots on goal you want and skate around for minutes on end in the opposition’s zone, but if you can’t beat the goaltender even once in regulation, you’re not getting a win in the NHL.
That’s why the Sabres’ two-game win streak came to a grinding halt tonight as they were shut out by the visiting New Jersey Devils 2-0. Despite out-shooting the Devils and having the edge in power play opportunities, the Sabres never found a way to solve New Jersey goaltender Cory Schneider, who fended off each of Buffalo’s 25 shots.
“It’s a tough loss,” said Sabres captain Brian Gionta following the game. “It’s a team you’re chasing in the standings, you could make up some good ground with a win here. You have to give [The Devils] credit, but at the same time, we just didn’t have enough. We were off on our passes, off on our executions. A couple of missed assignments led to goals. It’s disappointing.”
The Sabres power play looked especially off. Buffalo failed to cash in on any of its three man-advantage situations, even when two came just moments apart in the second period.
“In a game like that, the power play becomes ever so important, and in our first two power plays, we didn’t register a shot on net,” said Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma. “We had a couple of looks; we had Zach Bogosian at the top with a good opportunity. Cody Franson breaks his stick with his opportunity there. Ryan O’Reilly had a look at the net and he was looking for a tip at back door with a good opportunity. We didn’t deliver the puck to the net, and those opportunities go by.”
New Jersey scored goals in both the second and third period. The first came with just 2:33 left in the second period. Western New York native Lee Stempniak scored his eighth of the season when driving to the net. He tapped in a rebound that Linus Ullmark gave up on a hard shot from Mike Cammalleri.
The Devils’ second tally came off of a giveaway by the Sabres in the Buffalo zone. The puck slid to Jiri Tlusty, who roofed a one-timer over Ullmark’s shoulder for his second goal this season.
Ullmark finished the game with 19 saves on 21 shots, putting on what was without a doubt the best performance by any Sabre on the night and a second straight game where he allowed two goals or less.
The Sabres will be back on the ice inside First Niagara Center again Thursday night. They’ll host the Anaheim Ducks for a 7:00 PM EST puck drop, and the first meeting between the two clubs this year.