Skip to main content


game recap

Radim Vrbata's late goal gets Coyotes past Sabres

Arizona scores three in third, breaks tie with 18.9 seconds left

by Jerry Brown / Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A tough day that began with close friend Martin Hanzal traded ended with a game-winning goal for Radim Vrbata and a comeback win for the Arizona Coyotes.

Vrbata capped a three-goal rally in the third period by scoring with 18.9 seconds left to give the Coyotes a 3-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Gila Rivera Arena on Sunday.

Vrbata won it for Arizona when he skated out from behind the net to just inside the left point, where he let go a slap shot that found its way through a crowd and past Sabres goalie Anders Nilsson.


WATCH: All Coyotes vs. Sabres highlights


The goal was Vrbata's 600th NHL point. He assisted on Max Domi's goal to start the comeback and extended his career-best point streak to nine games. He has a goal in four straight.

Hanzal and forward Ryan White were traded to the Minnesota Wild for draft picks a little more than an hour before the game, making for a subdued locker room despite the emotional win.

"It's not an easy day for everyone in the room and around the team. But we talked before that we still had to play the game and we need to show up and have a good effort," Vrbata said. "Even when we got down two goals, we stayed with it and got a win."

Video: BUF@ARI: McGinn slams home his 100th NHL goal

Jamie McGinn also scored and Louis Domingue made 14 of his 31 saves in the third period for the Coyotes (22-32-7).

"After the first goal, Louis was really solid and it's a credit to the players that they worked hard tonight," Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. "[Vrbata] is a smart player who's had a really good season. For a guy who wasn't sure how it was going to go (at age 35) and we weren't sure how it was going to go, he's come in and played very well. He's a consummate pro who shows up and does his job every night."

Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues scored for the Sabres (26-26-10). Nilsson made 26 saves after Robin Lehner was injured during a 5-3 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Buffalo lost back-to-back games against 30th-place Colorado and 29th-place Arizona and missed a chance to pull within five points of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

"It's tough to swallow," said Eichel, who extended his point streak to six games with his 14th goal at 18:01 of the first period. "We've blown a lot of leads this year, and that's one of the most frustrating things. It seems like we play good and we get the lead and then we decide we're just going to sit back. … I don't know if we played a little too passive, but we don't push for that next goal, that third goal."

Rodrigues made it 2-0 at 9:53 of the second when he finished off a 4-on-2 break and beat Domingue over the blocker for his second goal in as many games.

But Arizona tied it with two goals seven minutes apart in the third period. Vrbata deflected Rasmus Ristolainen's clearing attempt to Domi, who beat Nilsson with a one-timer between the circles at 6:42.

"We turned the puck over there and gave them a freebie from the slot," Sabres coach Dan Byslma said. "After that, we let them come at us too hard. We were passive in the neutral zone and they came at us with a ton of speed."

McGinn tied it at 13:41, burying a bouncing puck past Nilsson at 13:41 for his ninth goal of the season and 100th of his NHL career.


Goal of the game

Vrbata waited for traffic and a sixth skater on a delayed Sabres penalty before he put his slap shot past Nilsson for the game-winning goal.

Video: BUF@ARI: Vrbata rifles home late go-ahead goal in 3rd


Save of the game

Nilsson preserved Buffalo's 2-0 lead intact by robbing Vrbata in the first minute of the third period, sprawling to get just enough of his glove on a point-blank chance to send the puck wide of the net.


Unsung performance of the game

Jordan Martinook played 18 minutes to prop up Arizona's depleted center position and won 15 of 24 faceoffs.


Highlight of the game

Eichel used Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy as a screen to put the puck between Murphy's legs and beat Domingue over the glove to give Buffalo an early lead.

Video: BUF@ARI: Eichel goes coast-to-coast to break the ice


They said it

"It's a dagger that they score with 18 seconds left to take the lead. To come on a road trip and get no points is tough." -- Sabres center Jack Eichel


Need to know

Vrbata's game-winner was his 152nd goal with the Coyotes, tying him with Jeremy Roenick and Laurie Boschman for eighth place on the franchise's all-time list.


What's next

Sabres: Host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B. FS-TN, NHL.TV)

Coyotes: At the Boston Bruins on Monday (7 p.m. ET; FS-A PLUS, NESN, NHL.TV)


Video: Late comeback pushes Coyotes past Sabres, 3-2

View More