BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Losers of six in a row after coming out of a four-game homestand with no standings points, the struggling Sabres are testing the patience of coach Don Granato.

Granato was not encouraged by Buffalo’s late response in a 5-4 loss Tuesday night at KeyBank Center against a Vancouver team it had beaten 5-1 on the road last month.

“It’s tough to take anything from the third when you start and basically lost the game through the first 20 or so minutes,” Granato said. “So there is nothing to take from it after that. It’s very disappointing that we didn’t start better.”

Falling from near the top of the NHL after a strong 10-game start, the Sabres (7-9-0) are now 14th in the Eastern Conference.

Jeff Skinner snapped a seven-game scoring drought with his first multigoal game of the season, Alex Tuch had a goal and two assists, Casey Mittelstadt also scored, and Tage Thompson tallied two assists. Craig Anderson stopped 27 shots.

The Sabres open a three-game road trip Wednesday night in Ottawa.

“We have an opportunity now to go on the road for a bit,” Skinner said. “Maybe that gives us a chance to be a little more simple with our game and get to that desperation earlier.”

Granato’s biggest gripe was with the Sabres repeating the same mistakes they have made in past losses.

“Easy to get frustrated when you see that,” he said.

Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a facial fracture, but the defensive effort did not improve. No. 1 overall picks Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power remained together in the top pair.

Buffalo scratched forwards Kyle Okposo (lower-body injury) and Jack Quinn (undisclosed), and called up Riley Sheahan and Anders Bjork from the minors.

Dahlin slipped a pass through two defenders to set up Skinner on the doorstep in the first period. Thompson made a nifty move and found Skinner wide-open in the left circle in the second.

Tuch redirected Power’s point shot and bounced the puck past Martin in the second period for his eighth goal.

“It took us a little bit too long to push back,” Tuch said. “I wish we had done it halfway through the first or the second. But it’s a learning process.”

Mittelstadt brought the Sabres within a goal when he scored with 7:58 remaining in the game. It was Mittelstadt’s third goal in five games.

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Bo Horvat had a goal and two assists to lead Vancouver in snapping a three-game skid.

The Canucks also got goals from Dakota Joshua, Ethan Bear, Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller in closing a five-game road trip. Pettersson added an assist, and backup goalie Spencer Martin made 28 saves.

“You just don’t want to go home on a losing note with the schedule that is up ahead of us,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Hopefully this gives us a little big of confidence.”

The Canucks scored power-play goals 1:12 apart to build a 5-2 lead midway through the second period. Horvat got his 14th on a breakaway before winning a face-off to set up Miller.

“For the majority of the game, I thought we played really well,” Horvat said. “We’re all really happy with our effort tonight.”

Vancouver ranks second in the NHL with 18 goals on power plays.

Bear got his first goal in eight games since Vancouver acquired him in an Oct. 28 trade with Carolina. Horvat’s backhand pass fed Bear in the high slot.

“They were willing to work harder out of the gate,” Granato said. “They showed more determination out of the gate and we were on our heels until we could not get on our heels.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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