And if losing to a rebuilding Buffalo Sabres wasn’t enough, the Coyotes were lucky to get the point. Karel Vejmelka stood tall in his first North American appearance and kept the Coyotes in the game.
The Coyotes shook things up for their second game, shuffling their lines and defensive pairings. Today’s game would be the debut of forward Liam O’Brien and goaltender Karel Verjmelka.
Buffalo took control early, outshooting the Coyotes in the first period. Despite the early pressure from the Sabres, the Coyotes grabbed the lead midway through the first, when Ryan Dzingel found Andrew Ladd wide open in front of Dustin Tokarski during a rare moment of offensive zone time.
Ladd’s goal was only possible thanks to some hard work by Johan Larsson to keep the zone.
Despite being outplayed, the Coyotes did look to be putting in the work. Although they aren’t clicking now, it isn’t for lack of effort. You can imagine the team having more success after the roster has had an opportunity to develop chemistry.
Arizona didn’t build off their early goal, and the Sabres controlled the pace of the rest of the period. The first ended with the Coyotes up 1-0 but outshot 14-5, and on the penalty kill for another 1:12.
Buffalo started the second period on the power play, but the Coyotes were doing a good job limiting their chances. But late in the kill, former Coyote Drake Caggiula brought the puck in on a 2-on-2. The Coyotes defense did well to keep Caggiula from getting the initial shot, but Cody Eakin picked up the puck and shot it in, tying the game.
The Coyotes would get their first power play of the game midway through the second, but they couldn’t do much with it. However, in what may be dark foreshadowing, the Coyotes looked better immediately after the failed power play, and a Grade “A” chance from Clayton Keller and Travis Boyd led to the Coyotes going back on the power play.
That would be the last power play of the game, and though the Coyotes looked better, they couldn’t convert. The second period ended with the game tied 1-1.
Neither team scored in the third period either, but the trend of Buffalo possession continued. Buffalo controlled the puck most of the period, like they had the rest of the game, but the Coyotes defended well enough and had a few good looks.
Overtime wasn’t able to settle this one, and the game went to the shootout. Both Tage Thompson and Nick Schmaltz scored in the first round, but Artu Routsalainen was the lone goalscorer of the second round, giving the Sabres the win.
It’s hard to say if today’s game was an improvement over the first game. The Coyotes didn’t get blown out like Thursday night against the Blue Jackets, but the Sabres possessed the puck most of the game, and they had to rely on stellar goaltending for Karel Vejmelka.
- Keller had 55 seconds of shorthanded time on ice in today's game. If he had played nine more seconds he would have matched his total shorthanded time on ice last season.
- A nifty play lead to a great chance for Ilya Lybushkin, who elected to pass to Timmins.
Lybushkin is probably the last player I want shooting, but he has to take that shot next time.
- Jakob Chychrun led all Coyotes' players with five shots on goal. Expect to see that a lot more this season.
- Victor Söderström is making a good case for staying with the Coyotes when Kyle Capobianco comes back from IR. He didn't have a lot of stand-out great moments, but he is playing well at the NHL with few glaring mistakes.
- Vejmelka really stole the show in his debut and looked very calm and in control. It's just one game, but it will be interesting to see what he does in his next outing.
- Karel Vejmelka - 32 saves on 33 shots
- Rasmus Dahlin - 1 assist, 25:21 TOI
- Andrew Ladd - 1 goal
The Coyotes will have their home opener on Monday against the St. Louis Blues at 7 pm.