The Sabres defeated the Arizona Coyotes by a score of 5-4 on Thursday night at Gila River Arena. In a game that was closer than it should have been, the Sabres ultimately staved off a last ditch effort from the Coyotes as time dwindled.
All five of the Sabres goals on the evening were consecutive, occurring within a 31-minute stretch. Despite ranking dead last in the standings, Arizona played a very tough game and likely would have won had it not been for a few stellar saves courtesy of Robin Lehner.
Though his stat line wouldn’t give the indication of a strong performance, Lehner made several key saves early in the game. With some help from the post on more than one occasion, Lehner was able to do just enough to help his team seal the victory.
Coming off a disappointing contest in San Jose, the Sabres’ netminder showed much needed improvement tonight, stopping not one, but two breakaway opportunities, something that has plagued him throughout his career.
Kyle Okposo had one of the more interesting goals of the night with less than one second remaining in the first period. The tally was Okposo’s first of the season, ending a frustrating drought for the veteran winger.
“That goal seems to get us some momentum, we had a really good 2nd period.”
Benoit Pouliot continued his strong stretch of play, registering an assist and two goals, one of which being the game-winner. Ever since he has flanked Ryan O’Reilly’s left side, Pouliot has shown vast improvement from the beginning of the season where he looked simply lost. Speaking of O’Reilly, he too enjoyed a multi-point night with three assists.
“Big boost in the confidence, the ending was tough, we got a little bit lazy but we came away with the two points.” – Pouliot
The most entertaining goal of the game goes to Evander Kane as he netted his third short-handed marker of the season. Kane entered the zone with Jack Eichel on a two-on-zero rush, passing to Eichel, who held the puck then passed back to Kane right in front of the net. For a team that has suffered through their fair share of short-handed goals against, it was nice to see the Sabres take advantage of one of their own.
While the forward group certainly impressed tonight, the Sabres defense continued to look absolutely dreadful in their own end. Facing a team that has only been able to muster a single win on the season, far too often the Sabres blueliners allowed the Arizona forwards to enter the zone at will, and nearly allowed them to force overtime in a game that was 5-1 with less than nine minutes remaining. Phil Housley has his work cut out for him with this group. Play like tonight will surely not be enough against better teams.
The Sabres will head to Dallas to take on the Stars on Saturday. Puck drop is at 8 p.m.