Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

November 17, 2011

Poor start at home dooms Sabres again

BUFFALO —  

Again? Another wretched home start from the Sabres, their third this month? Yup, this time they fell behind 2-0 behind to the New Jersey Devils by the 5:21 mark Wednesday.

The Sabres even seized the momentum early inside the First Niagara Center, as Thomas Vanek drew an interference penalty. But instead of capitalizing, they left Zach Parise wide open in front, and the slick American scored short-handed in the slot at 2:06.

Sniper Ilya Kovalchuk then tallied on the power play, blowing by Derek Roy in the left circle and putting the Devils’ third shot by goalie Jhonas Enroth.

“It’s kind of been an Achilles’ heel in this building,” defenseman Jordan Leopold said about the slow starts following the Sabres’ 5-3 loss. “We can’t get off to a start like that.”

But just like their other early meltdowns – a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia and a 6-5 win over Winnipeg, games in which they allowed three goals in the opening minutes– the Sabres came back, settled down a bit and made the contest interesting.

It wasn’t enough, though, especially against the trapping Devils and netminder Martin Brodeur, one of the all-time greats. The Sabres suffered just their second loss in seven games.

“When you get down goals like that, it’s always going to be a huge battle to come back, get back in the game and win a game like that,” said Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, who scored twice. “We really got to adjust out starts.”

Why does it keep happening?

“I think it’s just mental,” Myers said. “We all know what we have to do here in the room. We all know our systems, so it’s just a matter of work ethic every shift … and battling for those first 10 minutes.”

The Sabres hardly locked down later, however. They hung Enroth, who lost in regulation for the first time since Nov. 24, out twice for third-period goals. Patrick Elias one-timed a shot in the right circle after Mike Weber coughed up the puck, and then David Clarkson scored on a breakaway, ending the rookie’s night at 8:23.

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