After Martin Hanzal and Ryan White were scratched and left Gila River Arena amid speculation that they had been traded to the Minnesota Wild, the Arizona Coyotes hit the ice in depressing and deflated fashion.
For the first two periods they chased the puck, looked lost without two key players, failed to generate on the power play and couldn’t maintain possession long enough in their offensive zone to create any meaningful scoring chances.
But despite letting in a weak Jack Eichel goal in the first period, Louis Domingue locked down his position and kept the dominant Buffalo Sabres largely at bay, creating an opportunity for the Coyotes to take make amends for their dismal first two periods.
In the third however, a Max Domi special, Jamie McGinn’s 100th and a clutch Radim Vrbata goal, the Coyotes found themselves getting away with a 3-2 victory despite playing two very uninspiring periods to start the night.
1-0 Buffalo - Jack Eichel enters the zone with the puck and then nonchalantly lets a wrist shot rip through Connor Murphy’s legs and into the top left corner of the goal past Louis Domingue’s glove. Assisted by Josh Gorges at 18:01.
2-0 Buffalo - As the Coyotes power play expires, the Sabres clear the zone quickly creating a 4 on 1 chance the other way. Jakob Chychrun is able to get back to make it 4 on 2, but dives his way out of the play and takes a tripping penalty at the same time. Meanwhile, Buffalo execute a tic-tac-toe play and Evan Rodrigues finishes it with a one timer past a sprawling Domingue. Assists to Jake McCabe and Jack Eichel at 9:53.
2-1 Buffalo - After Coyotes’ lost an offensive zone face-off, Radim Vrbata intercepts the Sabres’ clearing pass and keeps it in the zone. The rebound from the intercept lands on the end of Max Domi’s stick, where he promptly spins to face the goal without hesitation and catches Anders Nilsson off guard. Assisted by Radim Vrbata at 6:43.
2-2 Tie - After collecting a dumped puck behind the net, Josh Jooris came around to the front and tried a backhanded wrap-around on Anders Nilsson. Nilsson made the save, but the rebound bounced out to his right where Jamie McGinn was waiting to collect the junk, scoring to tie the game. Assists to Jooris and Jakob Chychrun at 13:41.
3-2 Arizona - In the final minute of play, Alex Goligoski takes the puck deep and tries to dangle the puck past Anders Nilsson but runs out of room on the play and is tripped. The Coyotes collect the loose puck and Goligoski heads to the front of the net to screen and make traffic with Peter Holland. Meanwhile, Radim Vrbata finds himself at the point with time and space to rip a clutch slap shot in to take the lead for Arizona with only seconds left on the clock. Assists to Goligoski and Max Domi at 19:41.
1. What’s the Coyotes goaltending situation going to be? Louis Domingue was back in net tonight, with Mike Smith serving as his backup. Domingue played what could be among his best games of the season, saving 31 of 33 shots he faced for a healthy .939 save percentage. The first goal Domingue allowed was weak, but the second was at the fault of the team not the goaltender. From there on Domingue locked down the fort and made several huge game saving saves in the third period to give Arizona a shot at coming back, and that’s what they did.
2. Can the Coyotes stop leaking goals? Yes. Arizona were awful for two periods tonight but still managed to keep Buffalo to only 2 goals despite them dominating and controlling the play for most of the game.
3. Will Arizona keep scoring goals? For two periods it looked like the Coyotes of the first half of the season had returned, but a huge third period turned things around courtesy of goals from staples Max Domi and Radim Vrbata, while Jamie McGinn found himself back on the goal-scorers’ list for the first time in 14 games to give Arizona some much needed secondary scoring.
Players of the Game
Buffalo - Jack Eichel - Finished the night with a goal, an assist and 4 shots on goal. Was a thorn in the side of the Coyotes all night.
Arizona - Radim Vrbata - Also finished the night with a goal and an assist, and took 3 shots on goal. Unlike some other Coyotes, gave it 100% all night and drove the comeback.
- For more on the Buffalo Sabres, check out Die by the Blade. Dang that’s a sick name.
- Prior to tonight’s game, Martin Hanzal and Ryan White were traded to the Minnesota Wild for a collection of draft picks and AHL player Grayson Downing.
- With Martin Hanzal and Ryan White gone and Alex Burmistrov injured day to day, the Coyotes dressed all 7 defenders currently on the roster to play tonight as well as Peter Holland and Josh Jooris.
- Tonight was ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ night at Gila River Arena with additional celebrations for the ‘You Can Play’ project. The combination of each promotion demonstrates the Coyotes’ commitment to hockey in the desert, encouraging everyone to take part in the game regardless of socio-economic background and without fear of prejudice and discrimination.
- Going into tonight’s game, Domingue had lost his last 4 starts in a row.
- Radim Vrbata entered tonight’s game with a career high 8 game point streak and extended it to a 9 game point streak by assisting on Max Domi’s third period tally.
- During the first intermission, Todd Walsh talked to a frustrated Shane Doan about the Martin Hanzal trade. Here’s what Doan had to say:
Shane Doan doesn't seem happy about the Martin Hanzal trade. (h/t @FOXSPORTSAZ)https://t.co/kQJjoFC0GM pic.twitter.com/rbb6XOXz8S— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) February 27, 2017
- Congratulations to Jamie McGinn who scored his 100th NHL career goal with his game tying goal in the third period.
- Attendance: 13,432.
Arizona will now fly east for a 3 game road trip. Up first are the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. Puck drop is at 5:00pm Arizona time and the game can be viewed on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or tuned into on AZ Sports 98.7 FM.