The cheers went up when Sam Gagner scored 56 seconds into overtime to give the Arizona Coyotes a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
The odd thing, of course, was that the game was in downtown Buffalo.
It was a strange atmosphere at First Niagara Center, but one the Coyotes’ players glossed over in their postgame comments.
“It was different for sure, but we’ll take it when we can get it, I guess,” Gagner said.
“It’s weird,” said defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who scored his team-best 21st goal in the second period. “Obviously we just tried to stay focused on what we had to do tonight and I thought we did a good job of that.”
What the Coyotes did was drive the net and find ways to score. That added up to their second straight win and second straight offensive outburst. They are now a solid six points ahead of the Sabres.
The last time the Coyotes won two consecutive games was at the beginning of February. Both of those were on the road as well – a 3-2 win in Montreal on Feb. 1 and then a 4-1 win in Columbus on Feb. 3.
That was also the last time Arizona had two straight games with offensive outbursts. The team had been suffering through offensive woes lately, scoring seven goals in an eight-game winless streak.
Tuesday in Detroit the Coyotes broke out for five in a 5-4 overtime win against the Red Wings and rolled into Buffalo taking another OT win.
“We came in with a mindset that we wanted to have our first two-game winning streak in a long time,” Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. “I thought we played hard. … When you haven’t had success like you want, you get pretty down. It’s not a good feeling, so when you get a couple of wins you should enjoy it.”
The Coyotes weren’t just enjoying the wins, they were enjoying the scoring. Take David Moss. He has four goals in 53 games this season. Three of them have come in the last two games.
“He’s just finding some opportunities, and they’re going in the net for him,” Tippett said. “It’s funny. We track a lot of those opportunities and early in the year he’s getting the same ones, they’re just not going in. So it’s good to see them go in.”
“It’s been awhile,” Moss said of his back-to-back goal outburst. “I think individually it’s good, but I think more importantly for the team to get a couple wins is good. I think we’ve battled hard the last little bit here and haven’t got the results we wanted. I think the last two games have been really good for the team.”
Jordan Szwarz opened the scoring in the first. Ekman-Larsson and Moss tallied in the second, and Gagner scored the game-winner on the power play in OT.
“I’m just trying to get a puck through,” said Gagner, who tallied his 13th of the season. “I think we weren’t getting enough pucks to the net. I thought we were doing a good job moving it around the outside, but we had to find a way to get shots and that was my only thought there.
“You gain confidence from games like that. We want to continue to up our offensive game. We did a lot of good things in the O-zone tonight. We played a lot of the game in their end and that’s our focus going forward.”
The Coyotes are still looking for their first win in regulation since that Feb. 3 victory at Columbus. They continue their East Coast road trip Saturday at Pittsburgh before meeting the Sabres again on Monday in Arizona.
And for the individual players in the desert this time of year, it’s about making a case for their professional future.
“You look at the work of,” Craig Cunningham and Jordan Szwarz “and they’re good examples of guys who came here late in the year and they’re trying to prove they’re good NHL players,” Tippett said. “You go out and work ethic shows in a game like tonight.”