OTTAWA – The Buffalo Sabres remain in a no-win situation.
They can’t win on the road. They can’t win at home. They can’t win with Ryan Miller in net. They can’t win with Jhonas Enroth. They can’t win while ahead. They can’t come back.
The Sabres failed to win for the seventh time in eight games Tuesday night, dropping a 4-3 decision to Ottawa. They have lost three straight and are 1-6-1 in the last eight outings.
“It’s a frustrating time not winning hockey games,” defenseman Jordan Leopold said. “As we’ve seen in the past with our team the last couple of years, we find a way to win and we end up figuring out how to win, and we win a lot of hockey games. We have to find that jam ourselves and figure it out quick.”
Leopold, T.J. Brennan and Jason Pominville all had close-range chances to tie the game in final 40 seconds, but they couldn’t find the net and erase the team’s poor start.
“When things are going well, those opportunities, those whacking at pucks in the slot when there’s 20 seconds left, usually find a way,” Pominville said. “When things aren’t going our way, they don’t find a way.”
Coach Lindy Ruff tried to mix things up by starting Enroth in Scotiabank Place. The goaltender allowed three goals in the opening 14:15 to a team that totaled just one in the previous two games.
“That’s not good enough,” Enroth said. “I know that, and everyone knows that.”
Enroth is beyond desperate for a victory. He hasn’t won since beating Washington on Nov. 26, 2011. He is 0-10-3 in the 15 months since his win, including 0-2 this season. He has a goals-against average of 3.47 and save percentage of .898 during the winless streak.
“It’s been a long time,” he said. “I still think I can play in this league. I still think I can play very well. I know I had a couple games at the end of last year that I played very well, so I’m still trusting myself.”
The question is whether Ruff will.
“Of course, that’s something that is in the back of my head for sure,” Enroth said.
He’d historically had success against the Sens. He was 3-0-1 with a 2.16 GAA and .939 save percentage in his first four meetings. Of course, Enroth also had miniscule numbers against Carolina before losing his only other start of the season, 6-3, versus the Hurricanes on Jan. 25.
“We need better goaltending,” Ruff said. “There’s no secret to that. I think our goalie would admit that. He’s got to have a couple of those, so you’ve got to look to bounce back. I tried to let him bounce back in the game, and I thought the team tried to answer the bell.”
The crowd of 18,345 was roaring early as the Sabres fell behind. Tyler Ennis, reunited with wingers Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno, needed just 21 seconds to answer the Senators’ first goal. Ottawa, though, added two more to hit the first intermission with a comfortable advantage.
They built the lead to 4-1 with 8:12 gone in the second.
“Obviously, in this league and this game, you can’t expect to win by just playing 20 minutes or in the third period,” said defenseman Adam Pardy, who made his Buffalo debut in place of injured Christian Ehrhoff. “Getting behind two goals and then three goals in the second, you just can’t do it in this league.”
The Sabres scored the final two goals to make the last minute interesting.
Leopold deflected a pass from Jochen Hecht past goaltender Craig Anderson less than a minute after Ottawa made it 4-1.
Pominville needed help from the video judges to cut the Sabres’ deficit to one with 6:05 to go. The puck hit his shin guard and went in, causing the referee to waive it off. Review showed no distinct kicking motion.
But it was the last time a puck found the net, adding another loss to Buffalo’s 3-6-1 record.
The Sabres, who completed eight games in 13 days, will take today off. They begin another stretch of three games in four nights Thursday when they host the Montreal Canadiens in First Niagara Center.
“Right now we’ve got to worry about winning a game,” Ruff said. “Whatever that takes.”