The Phoenix Coyotes have made a habit out of letting their opponents hang around in games they have leads in. A problem that plagued them on Dec. 23 against the Buffalo Sabres, on Thursday against those same Sabres and all season, really.
Phoenix had a third period lead in Buffalo in December and a second period lead on Thursday in Glendale. On both occasions, the Coyotes went on to lose the game on an odd bounce.
The previous meeting between these two teams ended with one of the strangest goals, if not the strangest, in Coyotes history -- the infamous butt goal. Thursday's game ended with a short-handed goal, slapped off the stick of a Coyotes defenseman.
"(We) let them back in the game and they get a lucky bounce and they find a way to win a game and we find a way to lose another one," captain Shane Doan said.
Buffalo hung around the game until Zemgus Girgensons whacked the puck off Keith Yandle's stick and through Thomas Greiss' five-hole, short-handed, to give the Sabres a lead they would never relinquish.
"We made three really poor mistakes on the same play and it ended up in the back of the net and we couldn't get the one to get us back in the game," coach Dave Tippett said.
But the Coyotes' issues began well before that short-handed goal.
After a strong start to the game where Phoenix controlled possession and entered the first period intermission with a 2-1 lead, the Coyotes came out flat in the second period.
"From the first shift -- the first faceoff we won (in the second period), we started to turn the puck over and we just kept turning it over and every time we got it back it was just to dump it in so we can change," Tippett said. "If you keep turning the puck over, they make it hard on you and they made it hard on us and we turned the puck over right until they won."
Phoenix finished the game with eight recorded giveaways but the lack of offensive push hurt the Coyotes as much as anything.
"We're up 2-1 to start the second period and we do absolutely nothing as a group," Doan said. "We have a chance to put a team away when we're up 2-1 at home and I don't think we got a shot for 12 minutes. It's embarrassing."
"I don't even know what our level is. We're barely above average right now, if average. It's not acceptable, not even close," Doan added.
One area the Coyotes have been above average in over the last half dozen games is puck possession.
Despite controlling the puck for the majority of the game, the Coyotes didn't get the early lead. Buffalo struck first on Thursday, but in a much more traditional way than their OT winner last month.
Thomas Greiss made a great stop on a point-blank shot from Matt Moulson, but was unable to corral the rebound as Tyler Ennis scooped up the loose puck and fired it top-shelf for the early lead.
The Coyotes answered back in a major way scoring two goals 18 seconds apart in the waning minutes of the opening period to take the lead. Antoine Vermette's 20th goal of the season, a power play goal, followed by David Moss' sixth goal of the season capped off a strong first period for the Desert Dogs.
"The first period was really good. We created a lot of chances," Tippett said.
Second verse, same as the first as Steve Ott tied the game with a goal eerily similar to Buffalo's first. Ott's power play goal snapped Phoenix's penalty killing streak at 14 opportunities and tied the game in a second period to forget for the Yotes.
Girgensons's short-handed goal in the third period gave the Sabres their second lead of the game and their second wacky goal in as many games against the Coyotes.
"It's tough (to give up that goal), but the game should never have been at the point," Moss said.
Phoenix never recovered and their point-streak ended at three games after Thursday's loss.
The Coyotes are looking ahead as they hope to head into the Olympic break on a high note.
"These four games are huge going into the break...it starts Saturday," Moss said.
The Coyotes play Chicago, Pittsburgh and Dallas (twice) before the NHL pauses for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
- Buffalo's perspective
- Advanced game stats
- Phoenix tied a season-high for shots in a period with 21 in the first period.
- Vermette now has 10 points in his last eight games.
- Martin Hanzal led all players with seven shots and won 79 percent of his faceoffs.
- Greiss saved 25-of-28 shots for hos fourth regulation loss of the season.
- Attendance: 13,000
Our Three Stars of the Game
2. Zemgus Girgensons - Game-winning goal and an assist.
The Coyotes continue their homestand on Saturday night against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. with a town hall with the owners starting at 4 p.m.