Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres played their only home-and-home series of the season over the weekend against the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing both games. The team lost the first game Friday night, 4-3 in overtime fashion, and then lost the second game on Saturday night by a 3-1 score.
In the first game, the first period was uneventful, but fully controlled by the Sabres. The Penguins got on the board first late in the second period with a power play goal from Jake Guentzel. Shortly following this goal, Victor Olofsson tied things for the Sabres with his 12th goal of the year. With just 45 seconds to go in the period, Jeff Skinner gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead.
The Penguins got out to a hot start in the third period when Rickard Rakell and Brock McGinn gave their team a 3-2 lead. However, Sabres captain Kyle Okposo tied the game at 3-3 with 1:30 left in the regulation forcing overtime.
Prior to overtime, Skinner received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct following a post-whistle scrum where he cross-checked Guentzel in the face. This resulted in Pittsburgh having a long power play in the overtime period, where Jeff Carter buried the game-winning goal at the 1:36 mark.
In Saturday night's game, the Sabres were without Skinner due to a three-game suspension he received for the cross-check to Guentzel.
The Penguins got things going early on in the first with two quick goals from Rakell and Sidney Crosby.
The second period was uneventful for either team, and the next goal of the game didn't come until Peyton Krebs brought the Sabres to within one halfway through the third period.
The Sabres kept up consistent pressure, however, Crosby scored his second of the game late in the period to seal a 3-1 win for Pittsburgh.
It was a rough two days for the Sabres, who find themselves on a two-game losing streak for the first time in six games.
Here are three observations from the home-and-home series:
1.) Offensive consistency
Heading into the two games, the Sabres had just recently defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets with a whopping nine-goal night. The team also became the highest scoring team in the NHL because of that game.
However, the offense has sputtered over the last two games and has not looked the same. The Sabres are still getting high shot numbers with 69 shots over the two games against Pittsburgh, but they only scored four goals.
The offensive consistency is still somewhat there, but the team needs to convert more of their high-danger chances when they present themselves. Smarter shooting can also help them, because it would create more second or third chances after the initial shot.
2.) Stay out of the box
The penalty kill has been a huge problem for the Sabres throughout the majority of this season. The team has a measly 70% success rate when shorthanded, which puts them at 28th in the NHL.
In the two games against Pittsburgh, the team was shorthanded eight times, surrendering three goals. One of which, unequivocally, cost them the game in overtime.
Having just a 62% rate in two games is something the Sabres need to improve going forward.
They need more discipline moving forward. On most of the calls, the team was making simple mistakes that led to players out of position where when they tried to recover, it led to an avoidable call.
3.) Net front presence
One positive from some games this year had been the team's ability to cause havoc in front of the net when in the offensive zone. The past two games, the Sabres were invisible in that department.
Aside from Krebs' goal when he deflected a point shot for his second goal in three games, the Sabres were constantly being out-muscled trying to gain position in front of the net. Bigger players weren't using size to their advantage, and smaller players weren't trying to get involved at all.
The more chaos caused in front of the other team's net, the better off the team will be. With the amount of shots the Sabres generate from the perimeter, the odds of a few bouncing in from too many bodies in front of a goaltender are very good.
The Sabres will host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at KeyBank Center in Downtown Buffalo. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST with pregame coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST with Schopp and the Bulldog on the radio home of the Buffalo Sabres - WGR Sports Radio 550.