The silver lining disappeared Tuesday night. All that remained was a dark cloud.
The Buffalo Sabres propped themselves up following Sunday’s one-goal loss to Pittsburgh by pointing to their effort and determination against one of the NHL’s elite teams. There was little to laud Tuesday night as the Sabres lost to Winnipeg, 2-1, in boo-filled First Niagara Center.
The Sabres played uninspired for much of the night against a fellow struggling club, and the sellout crowd of 19,070 showed their displeasure.
The Jets, one of the few teams who entered the day below the Sabres in the standings, ended a three-game losing streak and improved to just 3-7 in their last 10 games.
The Sabres fell to 3-7 in their last 10. They have lost two straight and have won only once in five games. They return to action Thursday night in Toronto.
As has been a growing custom at the end of periods, the Sabres headed to their dressing room to boos. This time, the jeers came after the first with Buffalo in a 1-0 hole. It was only the second time in Winnipeg’s 15 games that it led after 20 minutes.
The Jets needed exactly 60 seconds to put the Sabres in a deficit. With the puck behind Buffalo’s net, three Sabres and two Jets dug for it. Evander Kane won the fight and threw a pass out front. Neither of the remaining Sabres picked up Bryan Little, and the wide-open center beat Miller on the glove side before the fans had even settled into their seats.
Buffalo’s struggling power play had two chances to tie the game against the NHL’s worst penalty killers, but Winnipeg handled the opportunities with relative ease.
The Jets had two of the period’s better chances, but Miller kept the Sabres within a goal.
The netminder put his arm across the goal line to thwart Blake Wheeler, and he stopped Kane after the forward sped around Tyler Myers for a short-handed break in the closing minute.
Buffalo’s best opportunity belonged to Drew Stafford, who started on the fourth line but moved back to the second by the midpoint of the period. His shot from the top of the crease wound up in Pavelec’s glove.
The frequency and volume of jeers increased throughout the second period, but Jason Pominville allowed the Sabres to avoid them at the end. The captain picked an ideal time to end his drought of six games without a point, scoring with just 21.3 seconds left in an otherwise forgettable period.
After the Sabres lost control in the Winnipeg zone, the Jets promptly returned the favor. Pominville and Marcus Foligno broke out for a two-on-one, with the captain carrying the puck down the left side. He slowed upon reaching the faceoff circle, looked in Foligno’s direction, then fired under Pavelec’s glove and just inside the post.
The goal changed the mood of the fans in the arena.
The Jets went up, 2-0, with 5:46 gone in the second when Buffalo resorted to its seasonlong problem of defensive-zone turnovers.
This time, the miscue belonged to Nathan Gerbe.
The right winger pushed a soft pass toward Pominville near the blue line, but Ron Hainsey easily stole it. Andrew Ladd’s shot then fluttered past Miller.
The loudest boos coincided with a commercial break with 8:27 left. It allowed Lindy Ruff an opportunity to gather the players at the bench, and the coach gave a quick, animated chat to the circle of Sabres.
Until Pominville’s goal, the Sabres’ second period was best illustrated by an early two-on-one. Stafford carried the puck with Steve Ott on his left. The right winger’s pass was easily swatted away by Zach Bogosian
The Sabres earned applause from the fans during the opening six minutes of the third with their first inspired effort of the night. They took five of the opening six shots and sustained pressure in the Winnipeg zone.
The Jets recovered and limited the Sabres for the remainder of the period, including a power play with four minutes to go.