Golden Knights’ struggles continue in 7-2 loss to Sabres

Timothy T. Force-USA TODAY
Sabres fans had this one circled on their calendars and the team delivered, beating the Golden Knights 7-2 despite Jack Eichel's absence in his return.

The Golden Knights were trounced in Buffalo on Tuesday night, losing 7-2 after the Sabres ran away with the proceedings in the third period. Dylan Cozens led the charge for the Sabres with two goals, while Owen Power added three assists to bury the defending champs.

If Tuesday’s win in Toronto was one step forward, the way their road trip has unfolded since then has been about five steps backward. Saturday’s loss marked the Golden Knights’ seventh loss in their last nine games, and the losses for the most part haven’t been particularly close. While injuries are the easy culprit for the poor performance, the core players that have remained in the lineup have largely struggled. It’s hard to imagine them magically finding a rhythm by the time the postseason arrives even with Jack Eichel’s impending return on the horizon.

The Knights have been stung by the injury bug over and over again. It got them again when Mark Stone went down, and the aftermath is still setting in for the Knights with the latest revelation that Stone will miss the remainder of the regular season and potentially the playoff run with a ruptured spleen. With that reality now in play, the Golden Knights have to be considering taking advantage of the ever controversial LTIR option to acquire a top-6 forward to replace Stone.

The Golden Knights fell behind 2-0 within the first 21 minutes of action thanks to unassisted goals by Jeff Skinner and Dylan Cozens. Skinner’s goal came in the opening two minutes of the first period, while Cozens added his in the first minute of the second.

The Knights provided two quick answers courtesy of a power-play goal from Brendan Brisson and a goal from William Karlsson to draw back even before the 25 minute mark. Problem is, those were the only answers they had before the Sabres took over the remainder of the game.

“I certainly thought we ended up playing the right way as the part of the end of the first period and we took some of that into the second. I thought we’d be okay then,” Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But after that, they were just out-competing us. It’s been a costly road trip for that in terms of us not managing the puck well on the offensive blue line. You can’t outscore your mistakes every night in this league.”

With 5:14 remaining in the second, Zemgus Girgensons gave the Sabres a 3-2 lead that they wouldn’t come close to relinquishing.

The Sabres added four goals in the third period to not just put the Knights down but to rub it in their faces as well. The Sabres and the Knights have had a bit of a quasi-rivalry come to form despite the distance between the two, largely owing to the Jack Eichel trade between the two franchises that has had fruitful results for each.

In fact, Sabres fans were desperate to see Eichel return from his injury to play his first game back in Buffalo since leaving. One fan took to X with an angry response video once Eichel was ruled out for the game, which the Knights fanbase had fun with.

However, at the end of the day, the Sabres and their fans were the only ones having fun on Saturday night. The Knights continue their road trip at 4 p.m. in Columbus against the Blue Jackets on Sunday.