The Wraparound: Sabres 5, Coyotes 4 - The Buffalo News

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The Wraparound: Sabres 5, Coyotes 4

GLENDALE, Ariz. – When the Sabres put together Robin Lehner's highlight video at the end of the season, clip after clip will come from Thursday's game in Arizona. The goaltender was fast, acrobatic and dynamic.

He was also a winner, but barely.

Outstanding netminding and balanced scoring carried the Sabres to a 5-4 victory over the Coyotes. Buffalo had a 5-1 lead before a late rally by the Coyotes made it a nail-biter.

Three of the goals allowed by Lehner came in the final 8:48 as the Sabres went on cruise control.

"It was a weird game," Lehner said. "I felt like it was a little bit like pond hockey out there for both sides. There was a lot of high-end chances both ways. There was a couple periods where it felt like every shot was Grade A. It kept coming."

Four players scored for Buffalo, which outshot the Coyotes, 31-29. Though Lehner didn't face a high quantity of shots, the quality was off the charts. He repeatedly made huge saves to move the Sabres to 11-3-1 in their last 15 visits to Gila River Arena.

Buffalo ended a two-game losing streak and moved to 4-7-2 for the season. Arizona fell to 1-12-1.

Another lesson for Sabres, though this one comes in needed victory

In the nick of time: Kyle Okposo scored his first goal of the season, and he literally didn't have a second to spare. The right winger found the net with 0.9 seconds left in the opening period, sending Buffalo into intermission with a 1-1 tie.

In the closing seconds, Ryan O'Reilly entered the zone and fired wide. The carom off the back boards went to Benoit Pouliot, and the left winger spotted Okposo open in the right circle. Okposo's one-timer beat Antti Raanta to snap his scoring drought.

Coyotes strike first again: For the 10th time in their 14 games, the Coyotes opened the scoring. They took advantage of Buffalo's top defense pair to do it.

Marco Scandella turned the puck over at the Buffalo blue line. Max Domi sped between Scandella and Rasmus Ristolainen and dropped a pass to defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who was open alongside Ristolainen. Ekman-Larsson's goal came with 6:35 left in the first.

Two in period two: The Sabres played one of their better periods of the season in the second, scoring twice and outshooting the Coyotes, 12-6.

Pouliot gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead with 4:20 gone. O'Reilly chased down a loose puck to create a two-on-one. He found Pouliot at the top of the crease for an easy tap-in. Okposo also earned an assist, giving the three linemates two points each.

Seth Griffith's stylish breakaway goal made it 3-1 with 5:24 to go. Sam Reinhart carried into the neutral zone and fed Griffith, who got behind the defense and went top shelf with a backhand for his second of the season.

Short-handed breakaway: Raanta had no chance of keeping it 3-1. He stood in his crease and watched Jack Eichel and Evander Kane head toward him on a two-on-zero. The result was predictable.

Scandella blocked a shot in the Sabres' zone, and Arizona defenseman Jason Demers wiped out going for the puck. Kane leaped over him, and Eichel joined his winger. Kane fed Eichel in the slot, and the center gave it back to Kane for a tap-in with 13:44 to play.

Kane's seventh goal was his third shortie of the season, putting him atop the NHL in the category.

Pouliot pours it on: The hundreds of Sabres fans in the announced crowd of 11,477 partied again with 8:48 to play. Arizona defenseman Luke Schenn fell, giving Pouliot a free path to the net. He went top shelf for his second of the night and fourth of the year.

Three late: Zac Rinaldo spun away from Ristolainen at the top of the crease and deflected a shot home with 7:49 left, making it 5-2.

Lehner made a save on Jordan Martinook's blast, but Nick Cousins was open in front for the rebound to make it 5-3 with 5:53 remaining.

"They got a lucky one off the skate," Lehner said. "I let a bad rebound on the third one, and they get some momentum."

With Raanta on the bench for the extra attacker, the Coyotes struck again. Christian Dvorak shot through traffic from the point with 51.7 seconds left.

Goalies hot early: Lehner and Raanta needed to be ready from puck drop. They were.

In the opening eight minutes, Lehner stopped two breakaways and a point-blank blast. At the other end, Raanta stopped a partial breakaway by Jack Eichel and a driving deflection by Sam Reinhart. Raanta was playing for the first time since getting hurt Oct. 12. He was sidelined for nine games.

More saves: Though Lehner needed to make just five saves during the second, they were beauties. He robbed sizzling rookie Clayton Keller at the side of the net, sliding over after a carom off the back boards.

Lehner got his left pad on a point-blank chance by Christian Fischer after the puck bounced off a body in front, leaving Fischer with a wide-open net. After Lehner made the stop, Fischer looked skyward and tapped his stick off the glass in disbelief.

And more saves: Lehner kept it going in the third, getting his pad on a driving chance by Max Domi with just 20 seconds gone. Lehner stuck the pad out again with 9:20 to play, robbing Derek Stepan.

Back in the lineup: Defenseman Justin Falk, who missed the opening 12 games with a lower-body injury, made his season debut on the Buffalo blue line. He partnered with Victor Antipin.

Matt Moulson returned to the forward group after being a healthy scratch for two straight games. He skated with center Johan Larsson and right wing Jordan Nolan.

Scratches: Right wing Justin Bailey made the trip but skipped the morning skate and sat with a lower-body injury. Forward Nick Baptiste and defenseman Taylor Fedun were the Sabres' healthy scratches.

Next: The Sabres will head to Texas to face the Dallas Stars on Saturday. The following two games are at home as Buffalo hosts Washington on Tuesday and Florida next Friday.

Sabres Notebook: Baptiste expects more from himself; travel changes under Housley

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