Pouliot scores twice, Sabres beat Coyotes 5-4
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres had what appeared to be a comfortable lead, up 5-1 headed into the game’s final 10 minutes.
Then Arizona scored a goal to turn up the pressure. Another tightened it even more. By the time the Coyotes scored with under a minute left, the Sabres were just hanging on.
Benoit Pouliot had two goals and an assist, and Buffalo held off Arizona’s furious late charge to beat the Coyotes 5-4 on Thursday night.
“We got away from what had made us successful and almost shot ourselves in the foot, but obviously we’ll take the win,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said.
Kyle Okposo had a goal and an assist to help the Sabres build a four-goal lead in the third period in a battle of the worst teams from each conference.
But Arizona scored three goals in the final eight minutes, pulling within one on Christian Dvorak’s goal with an extra attacker and 52 seconds left.
Dvorak’s goal came after Zac Rinaldo and Nick Cousins each scored in the third to give the Coyotes a chance, but they couldn’t get anything else past Robin Lehner.
Seth Griffith and Evander Kane each scored for Buffalo, which has won three of five after a 0-4-1 start. Lehner stopped 25 shots
“The ending was tough; we don’t want to get away from our game defensively,” Pouliot said. “We got a little lazy and they capitalized, but we came away with the two points.”
The Coyotes had No. 1 goalie Antti Raanta back after he missed nine games to a lower-body injury but spoiled his return by coughing up another early lead and giving up too many odd-man rushes, including a 2-on-0 short-handed goal.
Raanta had 26 saves and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored for the Coyotes, who have the NHL’s worst record at 1-12-1, including 0-6-1 at home.
“You have to trust your teammates and some of our defensive coverage was horrendous,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “It’s not our system and for whatever reason, when the heat’s on, we kind of abandon it.”
The Coyotes traded away top goalie Mike Smith and picked up Raanta from the Rangers, hoping he could fill that No. 1 spot after four seasons as a back-up.
Raanta’s run was derailed out of the gate due to a pair of lower-body injuries, limiting him to one full game and parts of two others.
The Coyotes got off to a good start in his return.
Arizona leads the NHL in scoring first and did it again Thursday night. Ekman-Larsson got it on a nice feed from Max Domi, beating Lehner stick side after the Sabres turned over the puck at their blue line.
Arizona has had trouble holding leads, though, and gave up another one when Okposo scored with less than a second left in the first period, beating Raanta glove side on a feed from Pouliot.
Pouliot put the Sabres ahead early in the second period, slipping behind Arizona’s defense to one-time a pass from Ryan O’Reilly for his third of the season.
Another Coyotes’ tendency: Giving up odd-man rushes.
Yep, they did that, too, and Griffith took advantage, using a deke to slip the puck past Raanta late in the second period.
Kane made it 4-1 early in the third period with a short-handed goal on a two-man breakaway with Jack Eichel.
“It doesn’t matter how many odd-man rushes or whatever happens, you’re the last guy there,” Raanta said. “That’s the tough part of being a goalie. When you let in five goals it’s hard to win.”
The Sabres appeared to be in control, but Arizona picked up the pressure and made them sweat it out.
Notes: Coyotes D Niklas Hjalmarsson missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Domi became the fastest player to reach 100 career points in Coyotes history, doing it in his 154th game with the assist on Ekman-Larsson’s goal. ... Buffalo RW Justin Bailey did not play due to a lower-body injury.
Buffalo plays at Dallas on Saturday night.
Arizona hosts Carolina on Saturday night.
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