In team’s last 20 games, 17 losses

With six games re­main­ing, freefall con­tin­ues

The Buffalo News - - NHL - By Lance Lysowski

OT­TAWA – The puck was in the back of the net be­fore the Buf­falo Sabres re­al­ized what had just oc­curred.

Ot­tawa Se­na­tors winger Brian Gib­bons snuck be­hind a group of de­fend­ers and one-timed a pass from Chris­tian Jaros into the back of the net for a twogoal lead in­side Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre on Tues­day night.

The se­quence was a mi­cro­cosm of all that has gone wrong for the Sabres since they were atop the NHL stand­ings Nov. 28, and it re­sulted in them reach­ing an­other his­toric low.

With a 4-0 road loss to the Se­na­tors, Buf­falo be­came the first team since the 1993-94 Win­nipeg Jets to drop 13 con­sec­u­tive road games and have a league-worst 35 points since their 10-game win­ning streak.

The Sabres (31-36-9) re­main 12th in the Eastern Con­fer­ence and, along with the New York Rangers, have the fifth-fewest points in the NHL.

Ot­tawa (27-43-6), the league’s most dys­func­tional fran­chise, had re­cently en­dured a stretch in which it lost 18 of 22 games. It traded its two best play­ers last month and fired for­mer coach Guy Boucher on March 1. Still, the Se­na­tors picked apart the Sabres’ de­fen­sive cov­er­age.

Gib­bons, Anthony Du­clair, Ru­dolfs Bal­cers and Mag­nus Paa­jarvi scored goals, the lat­ter two com­ing 90 sec­onds apart in the third pe­riod.

Carter Hut­ton made 26 saves, while Buf­falo was shut out for the fourth time in nine games.

The Sabres have lost 17 of their last 20 games, in­clud­ing 11 of their last 12.

Open­ing salvo: Du­clair gave the Se­na­tors a 1-0 lead, when he buried a re­bound off Os­car Lind­berg’s shot with 2:53 re­main­ing in the first pe­riod.

Though Marco Scan­della chal­lenged Lind­berg, no one was there to cover Du­clair, who was stand­ing to Hut­ton’s right.

An­other one: The lead got pushed to 2-0 with 11 sec­onds left in the first pe­riod, when Gib­bons one-timed a back-door shot pass from Jaros into the open net. En­ter­ing the game, the Se­na­tors had a neg­a­tive-12 goal dif­fer­en­tial in the first pe­riod this sea­son, com­pared to the Sabres’ mark of plus-9.

Ugly first: The Sabres were out­shot, 16-8, af­ter hav­ing the game’s first five shots on goal, though they gen­er­ated two more scor­ing chances, ac­cord­ing to Nat­u­ralS­tatTrick.com.

First timer: De­fense­man Will Bor­gen, who was re­called from Rochester be­cause Ras­mus Ris­to­lainen felt ill, made his NHL de­but. The 22-year-old had two goals and 10 as­sists in 66 games with the Amerks. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2015.

Close call: The Sabres had more shots (9-7) and shot at­tempts (24-16) in the sec­ond pe­riod, yet they trailed 2-0 af­ter 40 min­utes. Their best scor­ing chance oc­curred when Sam Rein­hart was stopped by Craig An­der­son dur­ing a 2-on-1 odd-man rush.

Big hit: Sabres cen­ter Evan Ro­drigues ex­ited the game with 4:14 left in the sec­ond pe­riod af­ter he was drilled into the boards by Ot­tawa de­fense­man Mark Borowiecki, who was pe­nal­ized on the play. Ro­drigues re­turned for the third pe­riod.

An­other shakeup: That slug­gish first pe­riod led coach Phil Hous­ley to re­unite Rein­hart with Jack Eichel and Jeff Skin­ner on the first line, while Conor Sheary was moved down to the fourth line. Ad­di­tion­ally, Casey Mit­tel­stadt skated with Alex Ny­lan­der and Zem­gus Gir­gen­sons.

Rel­e­vant stats: The Sabres were 6-2-2 in their pre­vi­ous 10 meet­ings against the Se­na­tors and led the all-time se­ries 68-5120. Ot­tawa was 16-4-2 when lead­ing af­ter two pe­ri­ods, while Buf­falo was 7-27-2 when trail­ing af­ter 40 min­utes.

Lineup: In ad­di­tion to Ris­to­lainen, de­fense­men Zach Bo­gosian (lower body) and Matt Hun­wick (up­per body) were not avail­able to play for the Sabres. For­wards Scott Wil­son and Vladimir Sobotka were healthy scratches.

Next: The Sabres are sched­uled to be off Wed­nes­day and will hold a morn­ing skate Thurs­day in prepa­ra­tion to play the Detroit Red Wings in KeyBank Cen­ter.

Getty Images

Buf­falo’s Evan Ro­drigues is helped off the ice af­ter be­ing hit by Ot­tawa’s Mark Borowiecki, though he re­turned to the game.

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