PREVIEW: Buffalo Sabres stumble into New Jersey after difficult defeat

Feb 20, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Sam Reinhart (23) shoots the puck past New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29) for a goal during the second period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Sabres will try to bounce back from what coach Ralph Krueger called their toughest loss of the season when they begin a home-and-home set with the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night in Newark, N.J.

The last-place Sabres missed a chance to move into a tie for seventh with the Devils in the East Division on Monday night when they dropped a 3-2 decision to the New York Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y. The Islanders’ Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored a tiebreaking power-play goal with 4:52 to go in regulation.

Buffalo, which had snapped a four-game losing streak with 3-2 victory at New Jersey on Saturday behind a pair of goals by Sam Reinhart, had battled back to tie the Islanders earlier in the third period on Reinhart’s power-play score. The Sabres finished with a 36-23 edge in shots on goal.

“It’s going to be a painful trip back over to New Jersey here tonight,” Krueger said postgame. “The best thing about this situation right now is to go right back at it tomorrow. But, I have to tell you, this is probably the most painful loss of the season for the way we were actually able to neutralize them, create opportunity. But to come out on the short end of the stick again, we have to be responsible for that.”

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Buffalo is just 1-4-0 since a two-week stoppage for COVID-19. However, even that turned out to be a painful win for the Sabres, who learned Monday that defenseman Jake McCabe would be sidelined six to eight months due to a right knee injury sustained in the contest.

“It’s important that we stick together here,” Krueger said. “That is a real important thing, that we don’t come apart at the seams because of the losses. As painful as they’ve been, against the Islanders especially, we had a shot in every game. … Above all, we’ve got to stick together as a group here and fight our way out of this.”

The Devils had a day off to lick their wounds after a tough 4-3 loss at Washington on Sunday afternoon. New Jersey blew a 2-0 lead as the Capitals scored four consecutive goals, including three on the power play over a 24-minute stretch.

T.J. Oshie scored the go-ahead goal on a power-play at the 11:53 mark of the third period to give Washington its first lead of the game, 3-2. Alex Ovechkin followed with another power-play goal five minutes later to give the Capitals a two-goal edge. Nikita Gusev scored with 12 seconds left to cut the gap to 4-3, but Washington’s Nic Dowd won the ensuing faceoff and the Devils never got another shot on goal.

“I think if you look at it, the difference in the game was special teams,” New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said, noting New Jersey was 1-for-3 on the power play while the Capitals were 3-for-4. “We’ve got all the personnel we need. I think there was some good stuff I saw on the power play. We scored a goal. We did some good stuff for periods of time on the penalty killing, but then we had the crucial breakdown which really hurt us.”

The two teams will also play again on Thursday night in Buffalo. The Sabres have won two of the three previous meetings this season.

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–Field Level Media