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Kane's two goals lead Sabres past Coyotes

by Joe Yerdon /

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres' offense is finding its stride after a slow start.

Evander Kane scored two goals, leading the Sabres to a 5-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes at First Niagara Center on Friday.

Kane made it 3-1 with a shorthanded goal 2:40 into the third period. Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons knocked a loose puck in the neutral zone away from Coyotes forward Tobias Rieder and toward Kane, who skated in against goaltender Mike Smith on a breakaway. Kane took a wrist shot that beat Smith on the blocker side.

"We changed up the [penalty kill] stretch a little bit there and [Girgensons] made a good play to kind of disrupt their breakout," said Kane, who added an empty-net goal with 52 seconds remaining. "I was able to get it and put it away."

After scoring 45 goals in their first 22 games, the Sabres have 17 goals in their past four. It's the first time the Sabres have scored four or more goals in four consecutive games since they did it in five straight games from Feb. 20 to March 2, 2007.

"It's finally coming around. It was frustrating for a little bit," forward Jamie McGinn said of the offense. "We stuck with it and we did the small things right, and we're getting in those hard-nosed areas and they're starting to go in for us. I'm glad for everyone that we're being rewarded right now. We can't change anything, because it can be taken away real quick."

The offense broke out after coach Dan Bylsma put together a new first line of Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, and Sam Reinhart. Kane has led the way with six points (four goals, two assists) in his past three games. O'Reilly has five points (one goal, four assists) in his past five games, and Reinhart has three goals in his past three games.

"If our line's scoring, if we're generating, we think we're doing a good job and kind of judge it off that," Reinhart said. "If we keep generating, we're going to keep burying our chances."

Kane's shorthanded goal was the first this season for the Sabres and the League-leading sixth allowed by the Coyotes.

"I don't think you're ever looking for those opportunities when you're going over the boards to kill a penalty, but it's a little bit surprising with the speed we have and some of the guys we have killing that we haven't gotten a better opportunity yet," Bylsma said. "As soon as the puck bounced out there, I had a good idea Evander would capitalize with the speed he has."

Coyotes rookie Max Domi cut the Sabres' lead to 3-2 with his second goal of the game and 10th of the season 6:42 into the third period, but Marcus Foligno restored Buffalo's two-goal lead at 11:44 with his second goal of the season. Foligno took a pass from behind the net by Nicolas Deslauriers and took a wrist shot that got past Smith at the near post. It was Foligno's first goal since Nov. 10.

"When I scored I just screamed and it was just anger and frustration coming out at the same time but it was excitement and joy too," Foligno said. "It's a good feeling when you score especially in a game when we might've needed that insurance goal big time."

The Coyotes nearly got back within a goal 19 seconds later when defenseman Nicklas Grossmann put a backhand shot past goalie Chad Johnson. But Bylsma challenged the goal and, after review, the referees ruled that Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal's stick had interfered with Johnson's glove as the shot came in and nullified the goal.

"It was at a critical time in the game with the challenge," Bylsma said. "It got the game back to a one-goal game. Right from [Johnson]'s reaction when the puck goes in the net, he immediately reacted, but you couldn't really see because the player was off to the side of the net and you couldn't see it, but [Johnson] reacted and given the time left in the game… we're probably going to challenge that one no matter what we heard from upstairs."

Kane completed the scoring when he put his sixth goal of the season into an empty net. He has five goals since he returned from a sprained MCL on Nov. 19.

"We were kind of waiting for him to come back and ever since he did, the energy levels, you know the way he plays, he just raises the energy on the bench and creates a lot," Reinhart said. "So it's a huge help to get him back 100 percent."

The Sabres (11-12-3) have won three of their past four games. The Coyotes (13-12-1) have lost the first three of a five-game road trip.

Domi gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead at 14:28 of the first period. He received a pass from Hanzal and broke in on a partial breakaway, deked, and put a backhanded shot past against Johnson.

"The first 20 minutes we were all over them, we were moving our feet and executing and doing all that good stuff and we kind of got away from it which you can't afford to do," Domi said.

Domi's 10 goals tied him with Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin and New York Rangers forward Oscar Lindberg for the goal-scoring lead among rookies.

"He was good tonight," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We flipped up some guys on lines and Max came out and really gave us a strong game. When players give you strong games like that it's too bad you can't find ways to make those count as wins."

Reinhart tied it with his seventh goal of the season 7:17 into the second period, and McGinn gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead at 13:13. McGinn has two goals and three assists in his past four games.

Johnson made 18 saves; Smith finished with 23.

"When adversity hits, we can't feel sorry for ourselves," Smith said. "It's easy to hang your head and say 'poor me,' but the character of this group needs to show in those hard times. Even though it's difficult to do sometimes, we can't let it get us down. We have to build on the positives and the things we haven't done well we need to improve on."

Buffalo forward Matt Moulson played in his 500th NHL game.

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