The Buffalo Sabres’ dropped their second-consecutive game at home on Saturday as the upstart Pheonix Coyotes skated away from the First Niagara Center by a score of 4-2, dropping the Sabres’ record on home ice to 5-6 on the season.
Longtime Coyote Shane Doan opened the game’s scoring when he ripped a slap shot passed Jhonas Enroth on the far side of the net just over seven minutes into the first period.
Despite the early deficit, the Sabres controlled most of the first period, firing 16 shots towards Coyotes netminder Mike Smith and at the 11:57 mark, Luke Adam put the Sabres on the board with his sixth goal on the season when he tipped a Jordan Leopold slap shot to tie the game.
The Sabres didn’t wait long to take a lead of their own. Just 51 seconds after the start of the second period, Patrick Kaleta collected his second goal of the season to put the Sabres out in front, 2-1.
Following the goal, the remainder of the second period belonged to Pheonix. The Coyotes responded with 15 shots on net throughout the period and tacked on two goals by Radim Vrbata and Paul Bissonnette to re-take a one-goal lead heading into the second intermission.
The Sabres came out and responded in the third period, out-shooting the Coyotes 14-6. Even though the Sabres seemed to control play throughout the third period, they were denied on multiple chances and failed to net the game-tying goal. Phoenix’s Vrbata tallied an empty-net goal to cap off the game’s scoring.
For their second straight home game, the outcome of the contest seemed to hinge on goaltending and special teams play.
Despite the loss, the Sabres offense looked very effective throughout, taking 44 shots in the loss. But Pheonix’s Smith responded with a few big saves, stopping 42 in all as opposed to the 29 that Enroth faced.
Enroth stopped 26 shots after coming off a 34-save performance in the Sabres’ 1-0 shutout win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.
In addition to their strong goaltending, the Coyotes — who are the least-penalized team in the NHL — took only two penalties and the Sabres failed to capitalize on each opportunity.
Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Brad Boyes all finished atop the Sabres’ shot list with 5 apiece.
Even though he had no trouble on the offensive side, Stafford registered a team-worst -3 in the loss, prolonging his struggles in his own end.
The Sabres finished the game shorthanded on the blue line as defenseman Tyler Myers missed the entire third period for reasons that were undisclosed following the game.
If the Sabres wish to respond to the loss, they couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to do so when the Boston Bruins travel to Buffalo on Wednesday in the two team’s first meeting since Ryan Miller was taken out by Milan Lucic. Miller has missed every game since due to concussion symptoms and is not expected to play in the contest.
The blood of the two division rivals will begin to boil when the puck is dropped at 7:00 p.m. EST at the First Niagara Center.