BUFFALO – The 4-3 shootout loss was even hard for Ralph Krueger to spin. The coach explained the Sabres’ inability to convert their chances doomed them Thursday against the hapless Detroit Red Wings. He insisted his reeling team’s effort remained high.
But there’s no getting around the Sabres suffered a humiliating defeat. The Red Wings, the NHL’s worst team, are on pace for the worst season since the NHL implemented the salary cap in 2005.
They began Thursday on a nine-game losing streak. They hadn’t won a road contest since Dec. 14, a nine-game skid.
The Red Wings are worse than the Sabres’ two tank teams.
Still, the Red Wings grabbed an early two-goal lead Thursday before eking out just their 13th win all season.
“Quite clearly, if you look at the whole game, they would’ve deserved a couple of goals, but we had opportunity for much more, and it’s just right now, with the failed opportunity not finishing on chances when the games are at their critical points,” Krueger said.
The Sabres erased two third-period deficits – 2-0 and 3-2 – just to force overtime.
“We waited too long to turn it on,” said Sabres winger Evan Rodrigues, who scored the tying goal with 46.2 seconds left in the third period and goalie Jonas Johansson on the bench.
Sabres winger Sam Reinhart said: “I don’t think it’s a lack of respect at all (for Detroit). I think it’s a night-to-night league. You have to be your best on any given night to give yourself an opportunity.”
The announced crowd of 16,607 inside KeyBank Bank booed the Sabres at every opportunity. How many fans will keep showing up over the next two months?
When the Sabres lost to another feeble opponent, the Ottawa Senators, on Jan. 28, captain Jack Eichel acknowledged the team overlooked the game.
That clearly happened again. The Sabres looked uninterested most of the night.
To wit: As Red Wings center Dylan Larkin zoomed in on a two-on-one late in the first period, Reinhart trailed the play appeared to give up on it.
Yes, the Sabres had just generated a scoring opportunity at the other end. Yes, Reinhart was probably winded at the end of a marathon shift.
But he allowed Larkin to roof a shot past Johansson unfettered with 0.2 seconds left, his second goal of the period.
Reinhart bristled following the game when asked if he stopped on the play, saying, “I don’t think I’m going to value that question right now.”
Krueger said his defensemen could’ve killed the play.
“The opportunity that (Reinhart) just had, the scoring chance they had, speaking to them coming in the room, they were pressing that one without a respect for how much time was still left on the clock,” he said. “But I do not see a lack of effort in Sam Reinhart here today.”
Late goals from winger Jimmy Vesey and Scott Wilson helped the Sabres tie it before winger Tyler Bertuzzi’s power-play goal put the Red Wings up again.
Larkin and winger Andreas Athanasiou scored in the shootout, securing the Sabres’ fourth loss in five outings. So much for that five-game home stand helping them get back in the playoff hunt.
“I do not see these guys quitting,” Krueger said. “There’s a bite in that room, they don’t want this season to fall away, they want to fight against this storm that we’re fighting against right now.”
The Sabres play a road game tonight against the New York Rangers.