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Strange goal by Pysyk gives Sabres OT victory

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Mark Pysyk's first goal of the season at 3:47 of overtime gave the Buffalo Sabres a 2-1 win against the Phoenix Coyotes at First Niagara Center on Monday.

Pysyk, a defenseman who was recalled from the American Hockey League on Monday afternoon, was credited with the game-winning goal when Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal knocked a loose puck out of the air and into goalie Mike Smith's hockey pants. Smith slid backward into the net to prevent a rebound opportunity not knowing the puck was in his equipment.

"I just put it on net, figuring I'd maybe get a rebound," Pysyk said. "I tried to jump through, right close to him, right in front there, so I knew he'd probably get a stick before I would. Just popped it up right in the air and was lucky enough that he spun and it went right into the net."

A review of the play confirmed the puck crossed the line.

"I've seen similar things. I've never seen that," Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. "[It was] a little unlucky for Smith there. I think he'll be shaking his head for a while. These are the kind of things that weren't happening for us. It's a little bit of a Christmas present for us, and we'll take it."

Smith said, "I don't know. I guess if they don't see the puck, they're supposed to blow the whistle. That's not what happened."

Sabres forward Tyler Ennis tied the game 1-1 with 5:59 remaining in the third period. Ennis got a pass from Zemgus Girgensons after he stole it from Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone and broke in on Smith. Ennis deked and put the puck past Smith for his eighth goal of the season.

"The guy just fell and I lifted his stick and slid the puck through the two guys," Girgensons said. "I was hoping it would go through, and Ennis finished it really good."

The Coyotes led 1-0 on a goal by Hanzal early in the second period. He deflected a point shot from defenseman Connor Murphy past Miller at 19 seconds. The play was reviewed to see if Hanzal tipped it with a high stick, but the call on the ice stood for his 10th goal of the season.

"The one goal, it looked like it was a high stick to me," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "Those things happen. We didn't get that break, but you've got to give this team a lot credit, they had good perseverance."

The Sabres lost forward Drew Stafford at 11:16 of the second period when he was given a five-minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct. Stafford hit Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson on a play in the corner. Ekman-Larsson was pursuing the puck when Stafford swung his elbow back and caught Ekman-Larsson in the face and put him down on the ice. Ekman-Larsson wasn't injured and remained in the game.

"It kind of looked like he shouldered him off," Nolan said. "I think he just tried to shoulder him off more so than the elbow, but, it didn't look good."

The Sabres were shorthanded to start the game. They dressed 18 players (16 skaters, two goalies) because of a flu outbreak; four of the five scratches involved players out with illness. It was the first time since Jan. 7, 1981, they've skated with that few players.

Phoenix ended a four-game road trip with a 1-1-2 record.

"That was embarrassing as far as I'm concerned," Smith said. "You go on a Christmas break, you have three days off, and you come out like that? I think that's a bunch of garbage as far as far as I'm concerned. You could tell they [had a] short lineup, they didn't want to make a mistake and we played right into that."

Miller made 36 saves; Smith stopped 30 shots.

The teams return to action Friday. The Sabres go on the road to play the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Coyotes head home to play the San Jose Sharks.

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