Sabres fall to Hurricanes again

After earning a point in six of their last seven games and threatening to climb in the standings, the Buffalo Sabres’ luck ran out Thursday night in a 3-1 loss to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.

There was no salvaging of a point to be done with another stirring comeback late in the third period to force the game to overtime or a shootout. This time, the Sabres’ tepid start proved too much of a blunder to rebound from–particularly because the tepid play went well beyond merely the start of the contest.

Jeff Skinner put the Hurricanes ahead in a hurry. He buried an effortless wrister past Robin Lehner before less than two minutes had been played for his 13th goal this season. Justin Faulk doubled that lead toward the tail end of the period during a 3-on-1 rush into the Sabres zone when he sniped a shot past Lehner’s left side.

Lehner may have only stopped four shots in the opening frame, but he was the sole reason why the scoreboard stood still during the entirety of the second period. Carolina bombarded the Buffalo net with 13 shots on goal–all of which Lehner fended off–thanks in large part to Buffalo spending almost half the period a man down. The Sabres took four minor penalties in the second, including one in the opening minute of it.

Not surprisingly, continually being on the penalty kill stalled Buffalo’s offense, where they managed just five shots on goal in the second period.

They finally found their scoring touch in the third when Johan Larsson’s notched his sixth this season. The goal came before six minutes had been played in the period, but the Sabres never solved Carolina netminder Cam Ward again for the rest of the contest.

A last-ditch effort to attack with six men while Lehner went to the bench never found a rhythm. Before the Sabres could even threaten a tying goal, Carolina left-winger Sebastian Aho managed to swipe the puck near the Sabres’ zone and hustle to toss it into the empty net for his sixth goal this season.

Apart from another listless start, penalty woes, and a mere 23 shots on the opposing goaltender, the loss is a tough one because of where it drops the Sabres in the standings. After posting wins against some teams like the New York Rangers, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Los Angeles Kings earlier this month, the Sabres have now lost three in a row in games against the Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers–two teams that had long been hovering near the very bottom of their divisions. This is all while the team has been its at healthiest all season, with the likes of Jach Eichel, Dmitry Kulikov, and Zach Bogosian all returning to the lineup in recent days.

With 32 points, Buffalo is once again in danger of slipping to the basement of the Eastern Conference. A loss on the road to the New York Islanders tomorrow evening will send them straight to last place in the East.

That game will their last before the three-day Christmas break. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM EST from the Barclays Center. Fans can catch the action on MSG or listen in through WGR 550.

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