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Sabres unable to protect early lead in loss to Coyotes

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Marcus Johansson and Jeff Skinner scored goals to give the Buffalo Sabres an early lead, but a lopsided second period changed momentum in what ended as a 5-2 victory for the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Saturday. 

The Coyotes surged ahead with three goals to open the second period, the last of which was scored at the 7:30 mark. The stretch was compounded by the loss of forward Victor Olofsson, who left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return. 

"It's disappointing," Johansson said. "I mean, they're a skilled team. They scored one and we kind of stopped playing instead of settling things down. It kind of snowballed and they got three. I mean, you're not going to play a perfect game. It's OK for them to score one. We just got to try to settle down and get back to our game."

Video: BUF Recap: Johansson, Skinner score in 5-2 loss

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger spoke prior to the game about the danger of the Coyotes' rush offense, which he felt they were able to suppress for most of the first period through careful puck management and commitment to their defensive game. 

The Coyotes did, however, string together some strong shifts late in the period which Krueger thought bled into the second. 

"Going into the second period we just gave up the coverage that had made us strong in the first," Krueger said. "One of the things that started the game well was we didn't spend a lot of time in our end and we just got trapped. 

"They score off a coverage error in the first one and it unraveled. There was some fatigue or something that showed up in the minds because we just lost our game for about five, six minutes there and it was hard to get it back."

Video: POSTGAME: Krueger

Jordan Oesterle found a lane to cut through the slot and scored the Coyotes' first goal just 2:20 into the period. Phil Kessel buried a rebound to tie the game just 53 seconds later. 

Christian Dvorak intercepted a pass along the boards from goaltender Jonas Johansson and scored set up Clayton Keller's go-ahead goal, scored from the slot with 12:30 still left to play in the period. 

"Every team in this league is good," Johansson said. "They're going to have good shifts and they're going to score goals. You've just got to find ways to settle it down and not get away from our game."

The Coyotes ranked third in the NHL with an average of 2.61 goals allowed entering the game. They flexed their defensive might upon taking a one-goal lead, which they protected until Keller added a second goal on a 2-on-1 rush with 6:01 remaining in the third. 

Oliver-Ekman Larsson capped the scoring with an empty-net goal in the game's final minute. 

"They probably did what we should've done to them," Skinner said. "They kept us to the outside and I think we showed flashes in the third of maybe creating some chances, but I don't think we sustained enough pressure to deserve another one."

The Sabres have dropped the first three games of their four-game Western Conference road trip. Krueger acknowledged the disappointment for a group that traveled out west desperate for points in the standings but stressed the need to stay the course moving forward.

"Every game is different at this time of year and we need to continue to work at learning how to play this time of year," he said. "We feel pain right now. There's nothing I can say that's going to make this pretty. But we definitely will stay on the growth path that we are on."


Up next

The Sabres conclude their four-game road trip in Winnipeg on Tuesday. Coverage on MSG begins at 7:30 p.m. or you can listen to the game on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 8. 

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