By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- The Buffalo Sabres dominated and humbled the Coyotes on Monday with a 7-2 thumping at Jobing.com Arena.
“You think you're pretty good,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said, “and tonight was a good wake-up call if we thought we were pretty good.”
Buffalo scored three goals on Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in the first 24:01 and Tippett responded by yanking Bryzgalov for the second time in four starts.
The Sabres outshot the Coyotes 10-4 in the first period and led 1-0 after 20 minutes. Rookie defenseman Tyler Myers, left alone at the top of the slot, ripped a slap shot past Bryzgalov at 2:37.
Buffalo scored four more goals in the second period to create a comfortable buffer en route to its eighth win over a Western Conference team in nine tries. Two of those victories have come against Phoenix (28-17-5). The Sabres beat the Coyotes 2-1 on Oct. 8 at the HSBC Arena.
Leading 1-0, Buffalo’s Chris Butler wristed a shot that hit Bryzgalov’s glove but then dropped to the ice and trickled into the goal 2:44 into the second period. Seventy-seven seconds later, Patrick Kaleta banged a shot between Bryzgalov’s legs from the right corner for a 3-0 lead.
“Their first three goals were all stoppable goals,” Tippett said. “The first two we made some mistakes on but they were stoppable goals.”
Captain Shane Doan pulled Phoenix to within 3-1 at 14:07 of the second period, but Buffalo almost immediately regained the lead when Jason Pominville scored a goal on Coyotes backup goalie Jason LaBarbera at 14:31 (see KEY MOMENT below). Pominville had two goals and an assist and Thomas Vanek had a goal and two assists for Buffalo (30-11-6).
LaBarbera, who turned 30 years old on Monday, didn’t fare much better than Bryzgalov. He allowed four goals on 18 shots. Ryan Miller, who likely will be the No. 1 goalie for Team USA at next month’s Winter Olympics, made 24 saves for Buffalo.
The Sabres are atop the Eastern Conference standings with 66 points.
“I don't think a lot of people expected it at the start of the year but we believed, and we still do,” Pominville said. “We're doing things the right way and we've got to keep that going.”
Coyotes captain Shane Doan worked hard in front of the Buffalo net to score a goal and pull his team to 3-1 at 14:07 of the second period. The Sabres, however, quickly snuffed out the Phoenix momentum by scoring on the very next shift. After receiving a slick beyond-the-net pass from Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville shot the puck over Jason LaBarbera’s glove and into the net from the right circle to restore Buffalo’s three-goal cushion.
• Asked why he thinks goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, whom the NHL named its Third Star of December, has struggled in January, Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said: "Stops he was making earlier in the year he just isn’t able to get right now. We need to keep working with him... He’s just like the rest of our group. He needs to play better.”
• Forward Daniel Winnik suffered an upper-body injury when he was checked against the boards by Buffalo's Clarke MacArthur with 41 seconds left in the second period. Winnik did not play in the third period. After the game, Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett classified Winnik as "day-to-day."
• Trailing 6-1 in the third period, forward Radim Vrbata extended his point streak to five games by scoring his team-high 16th goal of the season.
• The seven goals allowed were the most goals allowed by Phoenix in one game this season.
• Forward Scottie Upshall was checked into the boards late in the third period and appeared to suffer an injury. He returned to the game a few minutes later.
• The Coyotes scratched Lauri Korpikoski and Anders Eriksson. Buffalo scratched Tim Kennedy, Nathan Paetsch and Andrej Sekera.
"They played a good game and we played horrible and when that happens the score ends up like it was… Obviously they played well, but you can’t play as badly as we played and expect much different."
"Those guys worked hard. They played a very hard game today. Let's give them credit for everything they got, but we’re back to work Wednesday because Nashville is a hard-working team and we’ve got to be ready for them."
"That shift after they scored was huge for us. That's exactly what we have to do. We want to try and limit their momentum as much as we can."