After what head coach Don Granato described as a “learning point” of a loss to the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Buffalo Sabres will look to rebound when they host the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday.
Thanks to Jeff Skinner’s goal early in the third period, Buffalo held a 3-2 lead through 47 minutes of Saturday’s game with the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the Lightning then showed their mettle in scoring three unanswered goals for the 5-3 comeback win.
“We lost that game because of difference in experience, not skill. That was evident when you look at the detail of it,” Granato said.
While the coach praised the Sabres’ effort level, Granato felt “we didn’t play an experienced enough game down the stretch, specifically.”
It didn’t help that the Sabres were again missing a key defenseman. Just as Ilya Lyubushkin returned from a four-game injury absence, Rasmus Dahlin was a late scratch from the lineup. Dahlin is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and is questionable to face the Coyotes.
Owen Power helped fill the void on the blue line by recording two assists against Tampa Bay. The first overall pick in the 2021 NHL draft has seven points (all assists) over 12 games this season.
It was the Sabres’ second consecutive loss, as they went 0-2-0 on back-to-back nights of a two-game road trip against the Carolina Hurricanes and Lightning.
The Coyotes would welcome the idea of just a two-game excursion. Arizona has just started a grueling 14-game road trip. It matches the longest road trip in NHL history, a record previously set by the 2009-10 Vancouver Canucks.
Despite the tough month ahead for the Coyotes, they began their marathon trip in good form with a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
While Buffalo couldn’t hold its lead against the Lightning, the Coyotes were on the right end of a third-period comeback. Trailing 2-0 after 46 minutes against Washington, Arizona scored three times, including Nick Ritchie’s game-winner with less than 36 seconds remaining in regulation.
Ritchie also scored the equalizer, giving the forward his third multi-point game of the season. Ritchie has never scored more than 15 goals in any of his seven previous NHL seasons, but he already has six tallies in 11 games.
Arizona launched its comeback by “being physical,” defenseman Josh Brown said.
“Some guys were kind of running around a little bit, and we had some big hits to turn the momentum,” Brown said. “And then just getting pucks to the net. Sometimes we were trying to hold on, trying to make the extra play.”
Brown benefited from this pressure himself, scoring on a rebound 6:33 into the third period to spark the Coyotes’ late surge.
Karel Vejmelka stopped 34 of 36 Capitals shot, and likely will be the Coyotes’ starting goaltender again on Tuesday.
Eric Comrie has gotten the bulk of starts for Buffalo this season, including Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay. Comrie has a 3.39 goals-against average over eight games.
The Sabres’ power play is 8-for-24 over their last six games, with at least one power-play marker scored in each of those games.
–Field Level Media