A few small mistakes, a lackluster effort and a failure to tie the game on multiple chances led to the Buffalo Sabres dropping a 4-1 decision to the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Sunday evening.
The Sabres outshot the Devils 12-11 in the first period, including an early wraparound attempt by Jack EIchel just 27 seconds in, but it remained scoreless where it counts after twenty minutes. Each team had an opportunity on the man advantage in the first period as well, but both teams were ultimately unable to capitalize.
It would be Miles Wood putting the puck in the net first for New Jersey, near the midway point of the second period. With the puck on his stick, Wood took a shot that would deflect off his skate and into the net behind Carter Hutton. There was no kicking motion, as Wood was clearly just following through on his skating and the puck happened to make contact with his skate, so New Jersey found themselves up 1-0.
The Devils then took a 2-0 lead with under seven minutes to play in the period. A cross-ice pass from Kyle Palmieri found Jesper Bratt, who slapped it into the net behind Hutton for a power-play goal. The puck appeared to hit the post and went in and out quickly to double New Jersey’s lead. Brett has five points (3-2) in his last five games against the Sabres.
Finally, Sam Reinhart got Buffalo on the board in the final minute of the second period. Reinhart picked up a cross-ice pass from Zach Bogosian and had a nearly-empty net for the score, as Cory Schneider was on the other side of the net. Reinhart’s 14th goal of the season marked his 51st point, a new career-high.
Despite chances on both sides, the score remained 2-1 in favor of the Devils for much of the rest of the game. Kyle Palmieri finally got a goal - after recording assists on both of New Jersey’s first two tallies - with under six minutes left in regulation to make it 3-1. Palmieri fired a wrist shot, and Hutton failed to make a save, to regain the Devils’ two-goal lead.
The Sabres found themselves with a man advantage late in the game, but were once again unable to solve the Devils’ penalty kill, which is third-best in the NHL. Housley also elected to pull Hutton for the extra attacker, giving the Sabres a 6-on-4 opportunity, but to no avail. The Devils also potted a shorthanded empty-netter with 3:09 to play on Joey Anderson’s second goal of the year.
Overall, the Sabres produced a disappointing effort in Sunday night’s loss and have now dropped two consecutive games. They’re six points out of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, after the Penguins topped the Rangers 6-5 earlier in the day, and the playoff hopes continue to slip away.