BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — During a season in which the Sabres have flashed glimpses of readiness to end the longest postseason drought in NHL history, this month has provided a cold snap of reality that winter will persist a while longer for the franchise and its followers.

Buffalo began March with a 7-1 loss in Boston, to that point the most lopsided defeat of the season. The top team in the Eastern Conference skated into KeyBank Center on Sunday and asserted its superiority soon after the anthems, shutting the door to any resistance the Sabres could muster in a 7-0 shellacking.

Losing by seven goals for the first time since a Jan. 15, 2015 game against Minnesota during the organization’s strategic tank for the top draft pick, Buffalo is still only six points out of a playoff spot. But the Sabres (33-30-6) have tallied only six points over the past 11 games (2-7-2), getting outscored by 24 goals. Outclassed twice in 18 days by the opponent they would potentially face in the first round, along with a 10-4 beatdown from the Stars last week, the Sabres have lost three games by six goals or more in the same month for the first time in franchise history.

“It’s just unacceptable by us, this last stretch,” said center Dylan Cozens, who at least showed the Sabres wouldn’t go down without a fight when he stood up to Boston’s Travis Frederic in the second period after Frederic got a few shots in on Buffalo’s All-Star defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

Boston Bruins center Trent Frederic (11) and Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens (24) fight during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

“I just kind of wanted to finish a check on him after what he did to Dahlin,” Cozens said. “He just kind of wanted to go after that and just decided that might be a good time. We were down 4-0 and need a spark.”

Buffalo got booed by its home fans going into the first intermission down 3-0, but not so much at the conclusion of Sunday’s slaughter. That’s because so few stuck around that long. Thousands of Bruins fans lingered after the final whistle, cheering as Boston’s goaltenders, winning backup Jeremy Swayman and Vezina Trophy favorite Linus Ullmark, the former Sabre, leapt into each other’s arms on the ice.

The Sabres weren’t outplayed quite as thoroughly as the final score suggests. They held a slight edge in shots on goal (27-26), and advantages in shot attempts (56-37), scoring chances (31-26), and high-danger chances (16-9).

“I do think for the most part it was a pretty even game, chances both ways,” Cozens said. “But they capitalized and we didn’t.”

Swayman was superb, notching his second consecutive shutout and improving to 6-0-1 all-time against the Sabres.

Sabres goalie Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen continued his late season swoon, losing for the ninth time in 11 starts, with a 4.25 goals-against average in that span. The 24-year-old’s .741 save percentage was the second-worst of his NHL career, following a Feb. 21 loss when Luukkonen allowed four goals in the fist 12:09 against the Leafs. It took 11:40 seconds for the Bruins to score three goals Sunday, including the game-winner 15 seconds into the game. The fourth came 7:48 into second, after a disallowed goal that was kicked into the Sabres net. But coach Don Granato declined to relieve Luukkonen with 41-year-old Craig Anderson.

“When you consider putting another guy in, they might have to play two days later also. So there’s lots of different things your weighing in that situation,” Granato said.

“But if I’m thinking of Upie right now, this is the first time through it for him. And he’s a capable guy. We know he’s developed a lot in the last couple years. Wasn’t ready to play in the NHL two years ago, a year ago. We didn’t know if he was at the start of this year as he started the year in Rochester. This is something he needs. He needs that. He needs that battle with maybe doubting himself or the challenge of having to respond under greater pressure.”


Sabres D Kyle Clague played for the first time after sitting five games in replacing Jacob Bryson. RW JJ Peterka returned after a one-game rest, and replaced Vinnie Hinostroza.


Granato said newly signed Northeastern goalie Devon Levi is with the team but likely won’t be able to practice until at least Tuesday while awaiting immigration clearance. Levi signed with Buffalo on Friday after completing his junior season. He won the Mike Richter Award as college hockey’s top goalie a year ago, and is a finalist this year.


Sabres host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.


Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.