GLENDALE, Ariz. – Zemgus Girgensons scored shorthanded 1:52 seconds into the third period to lift the Buffalo Sabres over the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena.
Tyler Ennis and Steve Ott also tallied for the Sabres. Ryan Miller, with 38 saves, is now 6-0-0 in his career against the Coyotes.
Ennis opened the scoring 6:08 into the contest but Antoine Vermette and David Moss scored 18 seconds apart in the final two minutes of the first period to give the Coyotes the lead heading into the first intermission. Vermette extended his point streak to a career-long six games by scoring his 20th goal of the season with 1:30 remaining in the first.
The Sabres came back with an effort that helped them rally back.
“We knew we had to be better and it’s good to see the guys have that kind of response to a period like that because the game just doesn’t end if you get down. You have to respond and I can’t say enough good things about how we started playing hockey there in the second and third.”
Girgensons also had an assist in the game, snapping a 14-game pointless streak for the 20-year-old rookie. His last goal came on Dec. 21 in Boston.
“With the way he plays with that energy all the time, it’s good to see him get one,” Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said.
The game-winner came when Sabres forward Brian Flynn chased a puck deep into the Phoenix zone while on the penalty kill. He put a shot on net and as defenseman Keith Yandle turned to gather the rebound in front of goaltender Thomas Greiss, Girgeonsons knocked the puck off his stick and in past the goaltender.
Girgensons said he knew he caught both Coyotes by surprise.
“No one saw that coming,” he said. “[Yandle] had his back to the play, so I just saw the opportunity to poke the puck and luckily it went through five-hole.”
Greiss finished the game with 25 saves.
Buffalo played the game without defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who missed the game due to an illness. He averages a team-high 24:05 of ice time per game, so each member of the defensive corps had to step up in his absence.
Alexander Sulzer played 21:38 and assisted on Ott’s power-play goal.
“I think everyone contributed and we played a good game,” he said. “It’s always good when you play more minutes. You feel more in the game and you don’t have too much time to think about all that stuff, you just play and battle hard.
Ott added a power-play goal 6:38 into the second period to tie the game. Ott was generating traffic in front of the net with Ville Leino when Sulzer let loose a shot from the point. Leino took a swipe at the rebound and Ott put it in for his eighth goal of the season.
Buffalo is 3-1-1 in their past five road games.
“Sometimes when we have the lead, we panic a little bit,” Nolan said. “But tonight, we still panicked a bit – not as much, but it was good to see. The more experience you have going through games like this, experience is a great teacher and they didn’t panic as much and we hung on. Obviously Miller made some big, big saves.”
The Sabres have also scored three shorthanded goals in their past four games. Miller attributes the penalty killers creating more offensive chances to their comfort level in their own end.
“It just comes from confidence in the zone,” he said. “Once you’ve handled that, you can start to worry about other stuff like getting up the ice. I think that’s the main difference.”