With their lead in the Eastern Conference vanishing, the Buffalo Sabres have picked a bad time to struggle offensively.
The Sabres will try to get their high-scoring offense in gear and avoid losing a fourth straight game when they open a four-game road trip against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
Buffalo (44-19-5) has scored an NHL-leading 256 goals, but has just five during its three-game skid after posting 17 during a three-game winning streak before the slide.
“Teams want to control our offense,” defenseman Nathan Paetsch said. “We’ve scored the most goals in the league, so they are trying to find ways to beat us.”
The Sabres are in first place in the East, but that lead shrunk to just one point following their 3-2 loss to second-place New Jersey on Saturday.
“I don’t think anybody is panicking,” said Dainius Zubrus, who scored his first goal for Buffalo since being acquired from Washington at the trade deadline.
Thomas Vanek leads the team with 34 goals, but has not scored in his last four games. Chris Drury has 33 goals and hasn’t scored in his last three, but has a goal in each of his last four games against the Penguins (37-21-10).
Along with its offense, Buffalo’s special teams play has also been struggling. The Sabres have failed to score on the power play in a season-high three straight games, while allowing a short-handed goal in each of those contests.
“We’re just going to have to realize we’re not always going to be cute and pretty. We have to be ugly and we have to play defense,” said Ryan Miller, who has posted a 3.61 goals-against average in the last three games.
The Sabres haven’t lost four straight since dropping six in a row March 18-27 last season.
The Penguins came back from a two-goal third-period deficit on Saturday to defeat the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime and win for the third time in four games. Colby Armstrong scored 1:19 into overtime after Sidney Crosby tied the game at 2 and earned his 100th point of the season with 13:04 to play.
Crosby, who has two goals and an assist against Buffalo this season, became the youngest player in NHL history with two 100-point seasons.
“It’s never something I think about,” Crosby said. “It’s nice, for sure, but there’s a lot of games left—important ones—and that’s where my mind has been.”
The Penguins have come back in each of their past five victories and are outscoring opponents 14-2 in the third period and in the extra time in those wins.
Pittsburgh is in fifth place in the East and second place in the Atlantic Division, trailing the first-place Devils by eight points.
These teams have split their first two meetings this season, with both coming in Buffalo. They conclude their season series with another matchup at Mellon Arena on April 3.