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Arizona Coyotes take the first round of the McEichel Playoffs versus Buffalo

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The Arizona Coyotes won the game, but Buffalo took a point in the process.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes played an excellent offensive game but a poor defensive one against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night. They got more of the same Thursday night against Buffalo, with similar results.

Sam Gagner scored the overtime winner as the Arizona Coyotes defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 Thursday night at the First Niagara Center. It was the second consecutive overtime victory for the Desert Dogs.

Arizona looked to control the pace of play early in the first period, as they registered four of the first five shots on net. Their hard work culminated in Jordan Szwarz's first goal of the season at 7:55 of the first period. Kyle Chipchura and Craig Cunningham held the puck in along the boards in the Buffalo zone, and Szwarz was able to find a soft spot in the defense to rip a shot along the top corner of the net to make the score 1-0.

Buffalo would fight back shortly after however thanks to the heroics of Tyler Ennis. At 10:49, Ennis rifled a backhand past Mike Smith on only the fourth shot of the night for the Sabres. Ennis and Matt Moulson broke in on a two on one, and Moulson fed Ennis for an easy tuck-in goal to even the score.

With the score 1-1, Patrick Kaleta made the most of his return to the lineup. He drew a roughing minor on B.J. Crombeen after the latter took exception to a hit the former made on Tye McGinn, and then McGinn took a charging minor of his own against Kaleta in the dying minutes of the first frame.

The second period was relatively uneventful for both teams until roughly the midway point. Rasmus Ristolainen drew a minor penalty on Michael Stone, and then scored on the ensuing power play at 8:37 of the second period.

Arizona would get a power play of their own shortly thereafter, thanks to a Buffalo too many men penalty. Though Arizona would not convert on the man advantage, Oliver Ekman-Larsson's point shot went in at 11:29, three seconds after the penalty expired.

It would not be long before the Coyotes took a 3-2 lead, as David Moss deflected a Sam Gagner shot in at 14:20 of the second. Buffalo would add to their own misery shortly afterwards by taking a penalty at 15:51, but once again the Coyotes were unable to convert. They would take the lead going into the third period though.

The third frame would not be short of theatrics, as Mike Smith was forced to make several key saves in the early going to keep the Coyotes lead at one. On the other end, the game stopped around the nine minute mark of the third as Buffalo goaltender Matt Hackett appeared to injure his arm during a scramble play around his net. He would stay in the game after being attended to for a couple of minutes by the trainers.

Unfortunately for the Coyotes, bad penalties gave the Sabres the opportunity to work their way back into the game. Connor Murphy took two minor penalties while the team was clinging to a one goal lead, and on the second minor the Sabres pounced. Brian Gionta scored on a slapshot at 16:23 of the third period to tie the score at three.

Arizona would get a late minor penalty after Mike Weber tripped Shane Doan at 19:30 of the third period, but the Coyotes would not be able to score before time expired in the third. Both teams came away with at least one point; all that was left was to determine who took the extra one.

In overtime, the Coyotes made good on their power play. Oliver Ekman-Larsson fed Sam Gagner, who made no mistake in blasting it past Hackett for the OT winner at 0:56 of the extra frame. With the win, Arizona moved six points clear of Buffalo for 29th place in the NHL, and all but eliminating the prospect of finishing dead last in the league.

Our Three Stars of the Game

  • 3rd Star: Tyler Ennis - The Buffalo forward recorded a goal and an assist in 16:03 worth of ice time. He did all that despite missing the third period with an upper-body injury.
  • 2nd Star: Mike Smith - The save percentage doesn't look particularly great, but Smith did a great job making key saves at key moments in regulation.
  • 1st Star: Sam Gagner - Gagner assisted on Moss' goal and scored the game winner on the power play. An all around good game from him after he missed a post earlier in the third.

Paw Prints

  • For the Buffalo perspective, check out Die By the Blade.
  • Lauri Korpikoski was scratched tonight after taking a nasty high-stick to the face from Marek Zidlicky against the Red Wings on Tuesday night.
  • Arizona went 9:17 without a shot attempt, including the last 7:07 of the first period.
  • After not scoring three even-strength goals in a game since their February 1st tilt against Montreal, the Coyotes have now scored three in consecutive games.
  • The first shot attempt of the game went to Buffalo at 1:10 of the first. Arizona never trailed in shot attempts after that.
  • Jordan Szwarz has scored four goals in his NHL career, but has yet to record an assist.
  • David Moss has three goals in his last four games after one goal in the previous 51.