Forty-four minutes of waiting … waiting for something, really, anything, to happen.
The miscue came with the Sabres on the power play early in the third period. Richards started to go behind the net, leaving Sabres center Tyler Ennis all alone in front, and cut back too late. Ennis didn't need much time or space but had plenty of both, beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
One power play, one mistake and the Sabres came away with a 1-0 victory on Tuesday night at First Niagara Center, sparked by the power-play goal at 4:00 of the third period. It was the first shutout for the Sabres this season and the fourth career shutout for Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth, who faced 34 shots, including 14 in the third period.
Buffalo's power-play goal came after Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr went off for roughing at 2:50.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter was asked about the specific penalty. Sutter engaged in a bit of verbal give and take in his postgame session with reporters. In true Sutter form, he got around to saying what was really on his mind, winding his way over to the goal and taking Richards to task.
"It's a bad play by Mike Richards," Sutter said. "You can't drop off. It's a set play for us. You can't drop off in the corner unless we have full control.
"You've got to cover the middle of the ice."
Sutter's words can cut with sarcasm, of course. But this was blunt and unusually specific about Richards.
The coach also repeated a familiar refrain about forward Marian Gaborik, who returned to action after missing the last four games because of an upper-body injury. Gaborik played close to 16 minutes and had three shots on goal.
"I think his game conditioning is an issue as the game goes along, clearly," Sutter said.
The script is becoming painfully familiar for the Kings in Buffalo. The Sabres have lost once to the Kings in their last 11 games in Buffalo, and the last time the Kings won in Buffalo was in 2003.
Buffalo looked to be in defense-first mode. The Kings have been getting plenty of shots on goal — a lot like they did in their loss to Philadelphia on Saturday — but are still searching for that next level. They outshot the Sabres, 34-16.
"It's a combination of everything," said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who has not scored in 10 games. "We thought we had some pretty good chances around the net and we didn't cash in and we've got to do that."
Kings defenseman Matt Greene had an accurate description of the current struggles.
"We're playing all right hockey," Greene said. "We're not playing well enough to win. We've got to sharpen up.
"A lot of guys games are there but not at the level they need to be, the next level. That's everybody, myself included. We need to make crisp plays and doing it right for the full 60. Right now we're not doing that."
This was not an indication the Kings are getting close to that level.
"We are still a ways off from how we need to play," Greene said. "We want to get our game going and play the way we can. There's no positives."
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa