BUFFALO – Not even watching legendary goalie Dominik Hasek, one of hockey’s all-time greats, have his No. 39 raised to the rafters could jumpstart the hapless Sabres, who have now lost a franchise-record eight consecutive games in regulation.
Right now, having dropped 12 of the last 13 contests, the Sabres are mired in perhaps the worst rut in their 44-year history.
The Sabres showcased more ugliness in Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat to Detroit Red Wings, getting throttled on special teams again.
“We’re killing ourselves,” said defenseman Mike Weber, who scored the Sabres’ lone goal.
Detroit’s Darren Helm scored halfway through the first period, the seventh short-handed goal the Sabres have allowed this season. The Sabres’ feeble power play only has 11 goals all year!
“The momentum shifted after we gave up the short-handed goal, and they spent lots of time in our zone,” Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth said.
Gustav Nyquist’s power-play score essentially sealed the game 7:34 into the second period. The capacity crowd of 19,070 fans inside the First Niagara Center stayed silent all night.
The Sabres fall behind early most games, get outshot and rarely score. The NHL’s worst offense has scored one goal or been blanked six times in the last eight contests and 22 times this season. The Sabres have nine goals in the last eight games.
Remember, the Sabres won 10 of 13 games before this streak started. That torrid stretch feels like four years ago, not four weeks.
“We’re working hard, we’re just not working smart,” said Sabres winger Tyler Ennis, who has one goal in the last 16 games. “We’re beating ourselves with bad decision making.”
The Sabres’ recent run of injuries has given some youngsters and veterans opportunities to step up. So far, no one has seized their chance.
“That’s the word we used the last couple weeks is having some urgency in our game,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “This league, there’s a lot of guys given opportunities this year. When you have an opportunity, you have to do something. I always tell my boys, ‘When you play, you got to do something to let people know that you’re playing.’”
The Sabres crept back into the game when Weber made a rare pinch and scored 13:24 into the second period. But Tomas Tatar responded at 15:09.
The loss stung Neuvirth, who hasn’t won since Nov. 15. Like Detroit counterpart Petr Mrazek, Neuvirth grew up in the Czech Republic idolizing Hasek, the greatest goalie his country has ever produced.
“It was something special,” Neuvirth said about the ceremony. “Good for Dominik, he deserved it, congratulations to him. Obviously, I wanted to give the win tonight, but that didn’t happen.”
Only 14 Czech goalies have played in the NHL, so three were in one building Tuesday.
“They told me yesterday two young goalies of the Czech Republic will play against each other,” Hasek said. “This is something special. They retire your jersey and two young kids from the Czech Republic will be on the ice against each other. … This is something I’m proud if I had influence on these goalies – my style, my work ethic or something was special for them, which led them to become NHL goalies.
“In the Czech Republic, this is a great hockey country. … They follow these careers of these young goalies like they followed my career, and hockey means a lot for the people in the Czech Republic.