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Sabres fall 3-0 to Islanders, drop third straight game

Islanders Sabres Hockey
Posted at 9:29 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 21:41:30-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The Buffalo Sabres continue to struggle offensively, dropping their third straight game Tuesday in a 3-0 loss to the NY Islanders. It was the team's first back-to-back two-game series since their two-week COVID shutdown.

With the loss, the Sabres fall to 4-6-2. They'll be back on the ice Thursday, February 16th when they travel to the Washington Capitals.

4 observations from tonight's game

Falling behind early

For the second straight night, the Sabres found themselves in a 2-0 hole after one period of play. This has been an ongoing issue for the Sabres who have fallen behind several times this season. In fact, their opponents have scored the first goal in nine of their 12 games.

They say a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey, but when it's the Islanders up by two, it's tough to fight back and take control of the game. It's especially tough when you're playing in the East Division and in a season where every game is going to count a little extra with that condensed schedule. The Sabres need to find ways to capitalize and score early. You just can't play from behind every game.

Skinner: "If you can't score, you don't win"

In the team's first five games of the season, they scored 11 of their 14 goals during even strength. Since then, things have changed with only five of their last 15 goals coming with five men on the ice. That stat isn't ideal, especially since power play opportunities only come a few times a game, if that.

Yes, their power play unit can be lethal when healthy, but you need to have production when five guys are on the ice. Coach Ralph Krueger has played with the lines all season, especially with guys out due to COVID, but something's gotta get figured out before the offensive struggles get out of hand.

Need more from the $$$-makers

If you look at the roster and the 2020 salary breakdowns, you'll see five forwards making more than $5M this season. They include Jack Eichel ($10M), Jeff Skinner ($9M), Taylor Hall ($8M), Kyle Okposo ($6M), and Sam Reinhart ($5.2M). Unfortunately, some of these guys aren't doing much, if anything, for the team through these first 12 games... and it needs to change.

"It's been a struggle for me personally," Hall said after the game. "If you're not scoring, you gotta change something. Right now, it's been tough. I can't lie to you. If I have four or five goals right now, you don't know what our season looks like... especially the games we've been in right until the very end."

The five combine for just six of the team's 47 goals with Okposo and Skinner still looking for their first of the season. While Eichel and Hall are two of the top three when it comes to total points, both have had their bad stretches. Hall scored the team's first goal of the season and has since been held scoreless, while Eichel was scoreless through the first six games before scoring in back-to-back outings.

Good news on the horizon?

The Sabres need some help and they need to turn things around quickly. The good news? They continue to get healthier.

Defensemen Jake McCabe and Brandon Montour have officially been cleared to return. Forwards Curtis Lazar and Dylan Cozens went through a rehab skate this morning and both, along with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, were removed from the COVID-19 protocol list this evening - leaving just Casey Mittelstadt as the lone Sabre still unable to practice or play. The Sabres got McCabe back in the lineup tonight and could add a few more for Thursday's game.