The Buffalo Sabres' power-play scored the team's only goal during regulation, but couldn't find the net when the game mattered most on a two-man advantage in overtime. Former Sabre Geoff Sanderson beat Sabres goaltender Martin Biron on Phoenix's second shootout attempt as the Coyotes hand Buffalo a 2-1 shootout loss.
With Phoenix forward Mike Johnson in the penalty box for tripping, the Sabres failed to convert on the team's second five-on-three advantage of the game. Buffalo finished with a single power play goal in six opportunities.
"It's a tough pill to swallow," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff of the two missed opportunities. "Our power-play has been one thing that has won us a lot of hockey games. Tonight, we didn't make a lot of plays.
"We fanned on a lot of shots and bobbled a lot of good opportunities. In overtime, we made two nice plays, but didn't score. That's the opportunity to win the game right there and we didn't do it."
In the last four games, Buffalo's man-advantage unit has scored four times in 21 opportunities (19.0%).
"Those are chances when we could have won the game," said rookie Jason Pominville, who scored Buffalo's lone goal in regulation. "It's a great opportunity for us to be up by two men but we just didn't capitalize on it."
The game marked the third time this season Buffalo has lost in a shootout. The team stands at 3-3 when going into the competition, converting on just 53.3% of their attempts.
"It's not the way you want to lose the game, but I don't think we deserved to win tonight anyway," said Pominville.
Tim Connolly, Maxim Afinogenov and Pominville each failed to beat Coyotes goaltender Brian Boucher as the team moves to 2-2-2 with two shootout loses in the last six games.
After Connolly was stuffed and Afinogenov lost control of the puck on Buffalo's opening two shootout attempts, Pominville whistled the puck wide left of the net.
"Boucher kind of surprised me," said Pominville. "I was thinking about going high glove and he took it away. Low blocker was there, I just missed by a little bit."
Rookie Thomas Vanek was absent from the Sabres shootout lineup for just the second time this season.
"I didn't like his game tonight," said Ruff of Vanek, who had converted on just one of his previous four-shootout attempts. "He really didn't deserve to be in the shootout."
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Pominville shoveled a bouncing puck past Boucher on Buffalo's first power play of the game, the Sabres got outworked in the second and third periods.
"Fortunately for us, we had great goaltending that has been getting us points lately," said Pominville. "They still beat us 1-0 on the five-on-five game. It's an area we have to improve on and I'm sure we will."
Biron turned away 39 of Phoenix's 40 shots on goal but lost in a shootout for the second consecutive start. The game marked Biron's first start in five games. He made 25 saves in Buffalo's 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto on December 29.
"I thought our penalty killers did a great job," said Ruff, whose team has not allowed a power-play goal in three games. "I thought our defense played well, overall. I didn't like our forwards tonight as a group. They didn't make enough plays and turned pucks over."
On Phoenix's first shot of the third period, Oleg Saprykin ripped the puck from the right faceoff dot inside in the left post to even the score.
Sanderson, who appeared in 168 games for Buffalo from 1997-98 through 1999-00, scoring 29 goals and adding 36 assists for 65 points, recorded an assist on the play and would later notch the game-winning shootout score.
Rookie center Jiri Novotny, recalled from the Rochester Americans on Wednesday, didn't look out of place in his first career NHL contest. The Sabres first-round selection (22nd overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft skated with fellow rookies Daniel Paille and Jason Pominville. At the time of the recall, Novotny had recorded 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 36 games for Rochester.
Adam Mair suffered a concussion when hitting Phoenix forward Mike Ricci. Ruff stated his condition as very serious and that he was sent for further examination following the contest.
"Mair wasn't doing well even at the end of the game," said Ruff. "I had a conversation with him and it was a conversation with myself."
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1-0 (12:06): Jason Pominville whacked a bouncing puck into the net to give Buffalo the early lead. The power-play goal is Pominville's fourth on the man-advantage, fifth of the season and second point in three games. Chris Drury records the primary assist, while Brian Campbell gets the secondary. Campbell's slapshot from the point was deflected to safety by Phoenix goaltender Brian Boucher to the left of the net. Drury's shot from the left skipped to the far post where Pominville was stationed.
1-1 (1:31): On Phoenix's first shot of the third period, Oleg Saprykin rips a shot from the right faceoff dot that sneaks inside in the left post to even the score. The goal is Saprykin's seventh of the season. Former Sabre Geoff Sanderson and Denis Gauthier record the assists. Sanderson appeared in 168 games for Buffalo from 1997-98 through 1999-00, scoring 29 goals and adding 36 assists for 65 points.
Phoenix - Ladislav Nagy: Dekes and fires backhand that Biron stops with his right blocker.
Buffalo - Tim Connolly: Fakes, lifts leg and has puck pokechecked away by Boucher.
Phoenix - Geoff Sanderson: Dekes and fires five-hole. (0-1)
Buffalo - Maxim Afinogenov: Loses puck after deking (0-1)
Phoenix - Mike Comrie: Fakes backhand, Biron gets a piece of the puck with his blocker (0-1)
Buffalo - Jason Pominville: Fires wide to the left of the net. (0-1)