Photo Credit: Getty Images/Rick Stewart
The game began with a fierce pace as the Sabres and Coyotes took turns racing up and down the ice trying to pucks on net early and establish an offensive presence. However both defense were stingy in the opening minutes of the contest as the only shots by wither team to make it to the net were a pair by the Sabres the were easily turned aside by Phoenix goaltender Brian Boucher.
Oleg Saprykin has a good chance near the four minute mark when he took the puck around the net, drawing Buffalo's Martin Biron out of position, but when Saprykin tried to get the puck back to the front of the net to put it into the goal, he was stopped by the Sabres blueliners.
Less than a minute later, the Coyotes came back into the Buffalo end when Shane Doan faked a big slap shot and tried to slide the puck past Biron at the last second, but a diving Biron was able to cover the puck before it could get past him, keeping the contest scoreless.
The Coyotes received the first power play of the game at 6:06 of the first when Buffalo forward Adam Mair was called for tripping. On the man-advantage, the Coyotes met face-to-face with the Sabres strong penalty-killing unit, a unit that was quick to close off shooting lanes for the Coyotes and keep pressure off Biron.
Buffalo did suffer and early scare when a clearing attempt by the Sabres, from their own end, caused the puck to fly into the Buffalo bench where it struck former Coyote defenseman Teppo Numminen in the face. The veteran blueliner stayed on the bench where he received medical attention before retuning to the ice.
Phoenix made their first trip to the penalty box at 11:23 of the opening period when Steve Gainey was called for holding the stick. The Sabres were quick to take advantage of the extra attacker when just 43 seconds into the penalty, a pile-up in front of the Coyotes net resulted in Buffalo's Jason Pominville finding a loose puck at the left side of the net where he slammed it into the goal for a 1-0 Sabres lead.
Only 25 seconds after the goal by Buffalo, the Coyotes went back on the power play, as Mair was again the culprit, this time for interference. Phoenix tried to step up their offensive attack on the Sabres net, but Biron was able to get out of the way of screen at the front of the net and obtain a clear view of the shots coming at him, making it easy to stop them and hold on to the one-goal lead.
With 2:53 left in the opening frame, Buffalo made another trip to the sin bin as Maxim Afinogenov was assessed a hooking penalty, putting the Coyotes on a late power play. While Phoenix wouldn't find the tying goal on this man-advantage they were able to create holes in the Buffalo defense and get more shots on net, forcing Biron to stay on top of his game.
Coyote forward Oleg Saprykin took a penalty with 18 seconds left to play in the first. Phoenix would effectively kill off the final seconds of the period as the two clubs headed to the locker rooms after 20 minutes of play, with Buffalo holding a 1-0 advantage.
The Sabres started the second period with 1:42 of power play time left on the late first period penalty to Oleg Saprykin, but the Coyotes penalty killers did an impressive job of keeping the Buffalo attack off balance and forcing passes into areas where Phoenix could break-up the play and kill time as they returned to full strength.
Phoenix was given their fifth man-advantage of the game at 2:31 of the second when Thomas Vanek was sent to the box for hooking. The first minute of the Coyotes power play saw featured a good by Phoenix in terms of setting up and moving the puck around the perimeter, but as had been the case in the opening stanza, they simply weren't able to generate enough pressure on Biron to tie the game.
Coyotes forward Geoff Sanderson made his first trip to the penalty box at 4:37 of the second when he was called for hooking. Then, with just 51 seconds of Sanderson's penalty gone, the Coyotes found themselves down by two skaters as Fredrik Sjostrom was called for hooking as well, giving the Sabres 1:09 of five-on-three time. For most of the two-man advantage, the Sabres were able to keep the puck in the Coyotes zone, but incredible team defense and self sacrifice, highlighted by a huge slap shot from the point that was blocker by the legs of a diving Keith Ballard, helped kill off both penalties and return Phoenix to full strength.
At 9:31 of the second, Buffalo took their next trip to the penalty ox when Jay McKee was caught holding deep in the Sabres own end. But for the Coyotes, it was more of the same as creative playmaking and offensive skill was met head on by determined penalty killing and solid defense. As a result, the Sabres escaped being shorthanded once again and the Coyotes were forced to try and find a different way to get the puck past Biron.
For the next five minutes, the game saw no interruptions as the Coyotes began to turn up the offensive pressure on the Sabres with both clubs trading shots and making rushed up the ice, but with no change on the scoreboard.
With less than a minute to play in the second, the Sabres had an excellent chance to add to their lead as Thomas Vanek and Maxim Afinogenov entered the Coyotes zone on a two-on-one. Vanek faked the pass and them when he was about to take his shot; Boucher made a huge poke-check on Vanek and put a quick end to the Buffalo rush.
The second period would run off the clock with the Coyotes leaving the ice after two period of play still searching for a goal and facing a 1-0 deficit.
In the third period, the Coyotes offensive pressure would finally pay off at 1:31 of the final period as Geoff Sanderson carried the puck behind the Buffalo net and made a pass out in front to an open Oleg Saprykin, who snapped a wrist shot past Biron for his seventh goal of the season and to tie the game at 1-1.
As the game continued, the Coyotes and Sabres literally swapped rushes and put the pressure on the goaltenders as the pace of the game picked up and made each play all the more important.
Buffalo had a pair of quality scoring chances in the middle of the third period whit point blank shots from the slot, but the puck went wide of the net, never forcing Boucher to make a play.
With 11:21 left in the third, Brian Boucher made the saves of the night as he stopped a streaking Afinogenov with his left leg pad and then made another stop from a rebound at the top of the crease to keep it a 1-1 game.
The Coyotes went back on the power play with 6:37 to play in the third when Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder was called for hooking Ladislav Nagy as he tried to split the defense and break in on Biron. In what could easily be called their best power play of the night, the Coyotes dominated the play with perfect puck movement and quality shots on net. IN fact, the puck never left the Sabres zone until the final 14 seconds of the penalty. Unfortunately, the Coyotes first-rate work with the man-advantage didn't equate to a go-ahead goal and the game remained tied at 1-1 entering the final four minutes of the third period.
With 2:13 to play, Boucher left the crease to play the puck behind the Coyotes net but a weird bounce sent the puck onto the stick of a Buffalo forward who quickly fired the puck at the net, only to find Boucher, who had raced back into position there with his pads to make the stop.
Then with 12.3 seconds left in regulation, the Coyotes were dealt a penalty as defenseman Denis Gauthier tried to clear the puck from the Coyotes zone, but ended up flipping it over the glass and into the stands, resulting in a delay of game call.
Overtime began with the Sabres working on a four-on-three power play for 1:48 as a result of Gauthier's late third period penalty. In the extra session, the Sabres went on the attack and nearly caught phoenix badly out of position, but a great diving play by Mike Ricci poked the puck away and out of the Coyotes zone.
Then at 1:01 of overtime, the Coyotes fell between a rock and a hard place as Mike Johnson was called for tripping, giving Buffalo a five-on-three power play. The Coyotes countered with penalty killers Mike Ricci, Zbynek Michalek and Keith Ballard who took everything the Sabres could dish out and when shots did get through to the net, Boucher was tall between the pipes and made a series of big saves to keep the game tied.
The Coyotes nearly captured victory with just under two minutes left in the extra frame as Keith Ballard blasted a slap shot from the right face-off circle that beat Biron and rang off the crossbar before it could be swept into the corner.
Phoenix had another shot at winning the game when Nagy's blast from the slot with eight seconds left, was stopped by Biron and Mike Johnson tried to stuff it into the net, but couldn't get it past the Buffalo netminder and the game headed for a shootout.
In the shootout, the Coyotes went first with Ladislav Nagy. Nagy tried to fake Biron into biting on the backhand move before he pulled it back to his forehand, but Biron was key to the move and made the stop with his left leg pad.
The First shooter for Buffalo was leading scorer Tim Connolly who fired a wrist shot to Boucher's strong side, but was stopped.
Phoenix's next shooter, Geoff Sanderson, skated straight in, faked a backhand and blasted a wrist shot past Biron for a 1-0 advantage.
Buffalo's second shooter was Maxim Afenogenov who fanned on his shot, giving Boucher an easy stop to make.
The Coyotes final shooter, Mike Comrie tried to fool Biron by using a one-handed deke, but was stopped by the leg of Biron.
It all came down to the Sabres' Jason Pominville, who ended up firing the puck wide of the net, sealing the victory for Phoenix.