ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was a debacle in every sense of the word, a low point in a season full of suffering.
There have been a lot of losses in Sabreland this season, and plenty of them have been complete mismatches. But there hadn’t really been a blowout, a night in which Buffalo’s players stared at the scoreboard and watched the tally get worse and worse and worse.
Anaheim finally slapped one across the Sabres’ bewildered faces Friday.
The best team in the NHL toyed with the bottom feeders from the opening minute to the merciful end in Buffalo’s 6-2 loss. The Ducks put the pedal to the floor in Honda Center and shellacked the Sabres, dropping the visitors to 3-15-1.
“That was a disaster to be a part of,” Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller said.
The Sabres wasted no time in letting this one get away from them. The Ducks added lines to several chapters of their record book in building a 4-1 lead on a 22-7 shot advantage in the first period.
Ryan Getlzaf scored three of the goals, recording his first career hat trick and matching teammate Teemu Selanne (1997) as the only Ducks to pot three goals in the opening 20 minutes. Getzlaf assisted on the other goal to match a franchise record with a four-point period.
As the Ducks’ Ice Girls picked the celebratory hats up off the ice, the Sabres could only hang their heads.
“The keys to the game were try to shut down their top guys and have a good start,” Sabres center Cody Hodgson said. “It didn’t happen.”
Unfortunately for a helpless Miller, it was only the beginning. The Ducks fired from long range, peppered him from the top of the crease and probably had him wishing he could crawl into his Southern California home. Anaheim tested him 34 times through two periods.
The Sabres mercifully gave Miller the third period off by sending Jhonas Enroth out to the wolves, er, Ducks. Combined with the 51 shots Miller took Tuesday in San Jose, he faced 85 blasts over five regulation periods and one overtime frame duringthe California trip. He stopped 75 of them.
Anaheim finished with 46 shots. The Sabres have allowed at least 30 shots in 14 of their 19 games. Opponents have topped 40 seven times and 50 once.
So where do they go from here?
“I don’t know,” Miller said. “I really don’t. You just turn the page and move on. I’ve been part of many disasters in my career.”
The Sabres have a long time to think about the beating.
They spent the night in Anaheim and are scheduled to take the cross-country flight home today. They don’t play until Tuesday when they host the Los Angeles Kings.
“We learn from our mistakes and put it behind us,” left wing Matt Moulson said. “That’s all you can really do in professional sports. Hopefully, we get something out of it and move on.”
It was a bad night for some of the Sabres’ key veterans. Captain Steve Ott was on the ice for all four of Anaheim’s first-period goals. Tyler Myers and Henrik Tallinder had up-close looks at three of them.
The last time the top line of Hodgson, Moulson and right wing Tyler Ennis saw the ice was with 6:11 left in the second period.
“We’ve got to work, and we didn’t feel the work was there,” coach Ron Rolston said.
The Ducks’ first two goals came on the power play, as Buffalo’s once-dominant penalty killers got torched again. They had a span of allowing four goals in seven attempts, including Los Angeles’ 2-for-5 showing Thursday.
Both of Buffalo’s goals came from the stick of Mikhail Grigorenko. After getting scratched for three straight games, he responded with the second and third goals of his 39-game career.
Grigorenko’s goals cut the Sabres’ deficits to 2-1 and 6-2. Cody McCormick assisted on both.
“I wish we won this game and those two goals would actually mean something,” Grigorenko said, “but they didn’t really change anything for the team, probably just for my own confidence. And that’s a good thing.”
It was about the only good thing.
“It’s disappointing,” Hodgson said. “What else can you say about it? They’re a good team, got off to a good start and we couldn’t get anything going.”