Sabres' Playoff Hopes Die in Jersey

The Buffalo Sabres' slim chance at a playoff spot vanished in Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

Sabres' Playoff Hopes Die in Jersey

The Buffalo Sabres' slim chance at a playoff spot vanished in Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

Sabres 2, Devils 6

Shots: BUF 38 | NJD 30

Buffalo Sabres Goals: Jeff Skinner (34), Mattias Samuelsson (2)

New Jersey Devils Goals: Jesper Boqvist (10), Jonas Siegenthaler (4), Miles Wood (12), Tomas Tatar (19, 20), Jack Hughes (43)

Minus 1: Falling Behind

Facing a tough New Jersey team, the Sabres knew they needed to come out strong from the first puck drop. Jesper Boqvist's goal just past the midway point of the first period put Buffalo on the edge, and though they fought back, the game slipped through their fingers as it went on.

Things only got tougher after Jonas Siegenthaler's goal just 1:06 into the second period. To the Sabres' credit, they didn't give up. JJ Peterka appeared to get Buffalo on the board with a beautiful shot, but it was ruled offside (correctly so). Even after the disallowed goal, Buffalo just kept coming, and it paid off when Jef Skinner really got the Sabres on the board.

Still, the Sabres had trouble keeping up. Midway through the game, they found themselves once again down by a pair - not an insurmountable deficit by any means, but certainly a challenging one to face against a team as good as the Devils.

Minus 1: Things Fall Apart

The Sabres' effort just seemed to collapse in the third period, and their playoff hopes got slimmer and slimmer as the frame went on. Tomas Tatar's goal just 7:10 in, which put Buffalo behind by three goals, was the beginning of the end. Although Samuelsson was able to get a goal later, it was just too late and too much to overcome.

Top it off with a pair of empty-netters by the Devils in the final three minutes of play, and the Sabres have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. They fought hard, especially in the recent stretch, but Tuesday's loss dashed their chances at a wildcard spot. And against former head coach Lindy Ruff, too!

Final Thoughts

It's hard to look at Tuesday night's game in a vacuum, as just one game meaningful in and of itself. It was the biggest game of the season, and another must-win, and this time, the Sabres couldn't pull it off. No one expected it to be easy. Everyone knew it would sting. What hurts more: not even being close to a playoff spot, or narrowly missing one? What hurts more: narrowly missing the playoffs, or making it but getting knocked out in the first round?

This has certainly been a season to remember, with so many players setting new career-highs and having breakout seasons, Devon Levi's outstanding debut in the NHL, and Buffalo's first real meaningful hockey in the month of April in far, far too long. Before we get too far into eulogizing the season, and what could have been, the Sabres have two games left. They'll host the Ottawa Senators for Fan Appreciation Night on Thursday before visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. And then - the offseason fun begins.

There's always next year.