TORONTO – It turns out that nice win three days earlier was an anomaly. The hapless Buffalo Sabres reverted back into a laughingstock in Tuesday’s embarrassing 4-0 loss to the Maple Leafs, getting thoroughly dominated throughout their eighth loss in 10 tries this season.
How ugly was Buffalo’s effort?
The Sabres, three weeks into their 44th season, sprinkled a franchise-low 10 shots on Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier. The Leafs, meanwhile, pumped 37 shots on Sabres netminder Michal Neuvirth.
“I don’t know who we think we are, what kind of team we think we are, what we’ve accomplished to be playing like that,” Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges said. “We haven’t done nothing to be out there playing a cute game. We don’t deserve to play a cute game, and until we figure out that we have to work and scratch and claw and dig in order to give ourselves a chance to win, then we’re going to have nights like this.”
Reminder: Buffalo closes its campaign April 11. Seventy-two games are left.
The Sabres have 10 goals all season and have already been blanked four times! They somehow beat the Sharks 2-1 in San Jose on Saturday. That win, their only regulation triumph in the last 22 contests, feels like a distant memory.
“Sometimes if your feet ain’t moving, at least your brain should be thinking a little bit, and tonight we had neither,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said about Tuesday’s wretched performance.
Gorges said believes each player must look at himself.
“You can’t sit here and point fingers and say, ‘You didn’t do your job, you didn’t do your job,’” he said. “I didn’t do my job, and each guy has to go out and face the facts and say, ‘I’ve got to be better,’ and until we have 25 guys on this team that decide they’re willing to do it, buy in and compete, we’ve got nothing. So each guy has to do it on his own, and that’s the message we have to understand.”
Gorges couldn’t explain what it was like to play in a game so lopsided.
“I wish I could give you something,” he said. “That’s embarrassing.”
The stress of constant losing is clearly starting to wear on Nolan. He compared the Sabres to a peewee team following a 5-1 loss to Anaheim on Oct. 13. Nolan has chosen his words more carefully since then.
After a long wait Tuesday, he walked into a hallway outside the dressing room inside the Air Canada Centre and showed little emotion.
“We had nothing,” Nolan said. “Toronto had everything going, they were skating well. They deserved everything we got, and we deserved everything we got.”
He added: “We’re the type of team, if we have no work and we have no effort, I don’t care what type of system you play in the world. The two main ingredients are work and effort, and we didn’t have neither of them.”
Nolan wouldn’t call the game an embarrassment.
“That’s a word they used,” he said about the players.
Miraculously, despite being outshot 17-4 in the first period, the Sabres stayed in the game. Neuvirth dazzled for almost 40 minutes, stopping Toronto’s first 28 shots before Tyler Bozak scored a power-play goal with 50 seconds left in the second period.
“If we could’ve gone into the locker room tied 0-0, it would’ve been a different story out there,” Neuvirth said.
Then Phil Kessel scored on the Leafs’ 30th shot, a fluky goal from behind the net 4:18 into the third period.
The Sabres were cooked.
“Our goalie was outstanding for us, gave us a chance up until the third period,” Gorges said. “We didn’t respond, and that’s by far not good enough.”
James van Riemsdyk scored on the 31st shot one minute later.
Bernier acknowledged it was probably his easiest shutout ever. The Sabres’ previous record-low shot total, 11, came Dec. 3, 1981 in Boston.
The current team might be worse than the one that finished 30th overall last year.
“We can talk about it all we want,” Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said. “After games we can have as many meetings as we want. Until we, as a group, make up our minds we’re going to play a certain way, we have to play to be competitive in every game, it’s just not going to work.”