Sabres lose to Sharks in frustrating fashion, 3-2
When you play poorly and lose, you look in the mirror and demand better of yourself, especially when you haven’t done much winning to begin with.
When you play quite well and lose, you want to break things.
Which is just what Jack Eichel did on Saturday afternoon following a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo.
As the Sabres filed into their dressing room, their record falling to 3-7-2 because of Logan Couture’s sniper goal with just 3:52 to play, Eichel lifted his right leg and, holding the shaft of his stick parallel to the ground, shattered his patterned Bauer over his thigh.
Not exactly Bo Jackson with a baseball bat — other than the degree of anger.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Eichel said. “Not to get any points out of it is pretty frustrating.”
Indeed, the Sabres may have been the better team. They spent plenty of time in the Sharks zone.. They had a 33-31 edge in shots on goal, including 11-7 in the third period. They even scored just as many goals as the Sharks, but one didn’t count.
Eichel went top shelf on a power play at 17:12 of the first period to tie the score 1-1. Or so he thought. But the Sharks challenged, saying Sam Reinhart caused interference with goalie Aaron Dell maybe two seconds before Eichel shot.
The NHL agreed. As Reinhart skated left to right from the end line across the goal mouth, his left leg struck the right leg of Dell and spun the goalie maybe 10 degrees.
Dell did get back into position as Eichel was shooting, but the bump apparently was enough to prevent him from really getting set and perhaps getting across sooner to find the puck as Eichel received it, not just when he shot it.
Even within the Sabres dressing room there was debate.
“I thought he got set again,” Eichel said. “Those ones get you going, first-period power play goals. It’s not like I’ve been finding the net a ton.”
Said Jason Pominville: “That one could probably go either way. I think ‘Eiks’ probably would have scored anyway but it might have prevented him from getting across a little bit and setting for the shot.”
Sabres coach Phil Housley understood the viewpoint of the Sharks and the NHL.
“If Sam is outside the blue paint, I think that call goes in a different direction,” Housley said. “I thought he had time to reset but since the initial contact came within the paint, they definitely have an argument.”
Ryan O’Reilly’s fourth goal did tie the score at 2:55 of the second period and Pominville’s sixth goal at 14:51, off an Eichel pass, gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead.
But Chris Tierney scored for the Sharks with just 11.6 seconds remaining in the second period, swatting home a Melker Karlsson rebound.
Karlsson stepped out on the right of goalie Robin Lehner and threw a shot on goal. It hit Lehner and dropped near the right of the crease and Tierney had an empty net.
“They get kind of a freakish bounce, he throws it off his jersey,” Eichel said.
The Sabres were strong in the third period and Eichel had a great chance to give them the lead at the 7-minute mark but he couldn’t corral Pominville’s centering pass and chipped it wide.
“I’d like to have that one back,” Eichel said. “It kind of ran up my stick a bit. It’s kind of the story of the game. They get some good bounces and the puck bounces the other way for us.”
Couture’s goal came on one of those fortunate happenings. He entered the zone on the left wing and was taken into the boards by Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe. But in delivering the hit, McCabe lost his stick.
Couture was able to bounce off the boards, regain possession of the puck and McCabe was helpless to defend without a stick. Couture had an option to pass but instead roofed a shot short side, over Lehner’s right shoulder.
“I knew the goalie was thinking I was going to pass,” Couture said of his eighth goal.
A solid effort wasted, although perhaps not where team confidence is concerned.
“I believe we’ve taken steps in the right direction with compete and knowing what it takes to win in this league,” Housley said.