The Phoenix Coyotes came out of Buffalo with a point. They should probably be grateful to even have that.
Several missed opportunities and mental mistakes allowed Buffalo to hang around and force overtime, and an own goal for the ages by Mike Smith gave the Sabres the edge in the extra frame. The goal overshadowed another solid performance by Smitty, and prevented the Coyotes from taking sole possession of 8th place in the Western Conference (they have three games in hand on the Minnesota Wild).
The first period was a rather uneventful affair. Neither team found the back of the net and the Coyotes took only one penalty. They used all of nineteen seconds in the second period before registering their first on the night, a Martin Hanzal re-direction off of a Connor Murphy shot. The play would be reviewed because Hanzal's stick was very close to the height of the crossbar, but ultimately there was insufficient evidence to overturn the call on the ice of good goal, and the Coyotes jumped out to a 1-0 lead.
Things started unraveling midway through the 2nd when Drew Stafford elbowed Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the face. Stafford received a five minute major and a game misconduct, giving Phoenix five minutes of uninterrupted power play time. At least in theory.
In reality, the Coyotes could not enter the zone for the first two and a half minutes of the power play, and Martin Hanzal nullified all but thirty seconds of the rest by taking a really dumb roughing minor against Steve Ott. Although replays indicate that Ott initiated the scuffle between himself and Hanzal, the Coyotes' center has to be cognizant of the situation at hand and not do anything to draw a penalty. As a result, Phoenix could not convert on the major, and would not score another goal in this game.
Buffalo would catch a break in the third too. Tyler Ennis scored at 14:01 of the third period off of a defensive zone turnover by Michael Stone. The Coyotes would take two minor penalties in the final ten minutes of the third period to hem themselves into their own zone for much of the stretch run.
Overtime was when things got weird. At 3:47 of the extra frame, Mike Smith went slightly out to his left to poke away a puck that was sitting unattended near his crease. Mark Pysyk got to it first however, and the puck flew almost straight up into the air, ultimately coming to a rest in the back of Smith's pants. Smitty, unaware of the location of the puck, did precisely what goaltenders are trained to do in the event that they lose sight of the puck: he backed into his own net. Unfortunately, that meant he carried the puck into his own net too, securing the 2-1 victory for the Buffalo Sabres.
- The Coyotes killed off all four penalties they took, but the timing of these penalties (especially the Hanzal minor), cost the Coyotes a lot of offensive zone time that they desperately needed.
- The time in Portland seems to have served Rostislav Klesla well: he played over fourteen minutes and looked much faster than he did at the beginning of the year.
- Phoenix outshot Buffalo 15-3 in the first, but would be outshot 7-12 in the second and 11-13 in the third. Shots were even at four apiece in OT.
- Tim Kennedy recorded an assist in front of his parents and extended family.
- The Sabres did not have the services of Linus Omark, Ville Leino, or Cody Hodgson tonight. They didn't really need them.
Our Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star - Mike Smith: Own OT goal aside, Mike Smith turned in a 30 save performance, and had a shutout going for the first 54 minutes of the game. A shame his team couldn't go the distance for him.
2nd Star - Ryan Miller: Miller fought off an offensive onslaught in the first period, and was nearly perfect for the rest of the game. He finished with an impressive .973 save percentage.
1st Star - Nobody: No one else really deserves this. Both teams played poorly for different reasons. But one team had to win, and that team was Buffalo.
Some much needed time off for the Coyotes, as they do not have another game scheduled until Friday night. They will play a home game against the San Jose Sharks before playing in Anaheim the next evening.