BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Not even the loss of two key Buffalo Sabres in a blockbuster trade right before warm-ups could alter one of the NHL's most inexplicable truths:

When the Sharks show up on the shores of Lake Erie, they're leaving with a loss to the Sabres.

It happened again Friday night, as the Sabres skated away with a 4-2 victory on the same night they traded Olympic-caliber goalie Ryan Miller and their agitating captain Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues. Sixteen times, the Sharks have faced Buffalo on the road, 15 times they have come away without the two points against a team that has made the playoffs only twice in the last six years.

"They just have our number for whatever reason," said Joe Thornton, whose first game as a Shark on Dec. 2, 2005, was the lone San Jose win here.

The Sharks battled Buffalo evenly for two periods before goals by Sabres forwards Bryan Flynn and Matt Moulson a little more than three minutes apart handed goalie Antti Niemi the loss in his first start since Feb. 7. Ask coach Todd McLellan what went wrong, and he'll point to the details.

"You look at both the goals they scored, they're very preventable. We've been together for 61 or 62 games now, and we're not sure of where to go on the faceoff. That's unacceptable," McLellan said, referring to Flynn's goal at 4:33 immediately after Tommy Wingels lost a draw to Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons.

The next Buffalo goal came at 7:39 after Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers skated around Sharks forward Adam Burish and found Moulson all alone in the slot. "Just real sloppy," McLellan said.

James Sheppard tied it with his first goal in 35 games at 9:38 of the second period after Sabres forward Cody Hodgson had staked Buffalo to a 1-0 lead at 10:59 of the first. Patrick Marleau cut the deficit to one goal with 75 seconds left in the third, but an empty-netter by Myers restored the two-goal margin.

And with Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth making 36 saves, it wasn't as if the departure of Miller was too noticeable in Buffalo's first game without him.

Even with three victories since the Olympic break, the Sabres are still the NHL's cellar-dwellers with 44 points. But the Sharks expected them to be dangerous even before the announcement of the deal that sent Miller and Ott to the Blues in exchange for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, a prospect and two draft picks.

"They get a little shake-up, I'm sure they get punched a little bit," said Joe Pavelski, who was Miller's teammate on Team USA the past two Olympiads. "They lose a couple really good players, you come out and play hard. That's what they did."

For the Sharks, the game was quite the contrast to their 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers the previous night.

"Yeah, we couldn't quite get the second opportunities," Thornton said. "Last night we did a good job of finding pucks in front of the net, and tonight we couldn't find any."

Using Niemi -- who acknowledged he couldn't explain the problem he had with the three goals that all beat him on the blocker side -- instead of Alex Stalock in net wasn't the only lineup change McLellan made between the two games.

Raffi Torres, who scored twice against the Flyers, sat this one out rather than face the prospect of playing three games in four nights after missing the first 59, and Matt Nieto was also a scratch. The two were replaced in the lineup with Sheppard and Tyler Kennedy.

"We just had a three-week break, and Tyler Kennedy hasn't played in well over a month because of an injury," McLellan said. "And James Sheppard going into the break was one of our better players. He needed to get back in the lineup as well."

Their victory gave the Sabres a sweep of the season series. They beat the Sharks 5-4 in a shootout Nov. 5 at SAP Center.

SUNDAY'S GAME
Sharks (38-17-6)
at New Jersey
(25-22-13),
noon CSNCA