Ralph Krueger watched from behind the Buffalo Sabres bench as his players lost a two-goal lead Monday night in KeyBank Center. His penalty kill allowed the tying goal late in the second period to an opponent on the final game of a long road trip.
Their first period was the highlight of their return home. The Sabres blew a two-goal lead in the first period for the second time this season and lost to the Arizona Coyotes, 3-2.
Nick Schmaltz scored the winning goal in the second shootout round for Arizona. The Sabres (9-2-2) lost their first home game of the season and failed to match the 1975-76 team’s franchise record for the best start to the home schedule. The Coyotes (7-3-1), meanwhile, won three of four games during their road trip.
Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner scored in the first period for the Sabres, while the Coyotes' regulation goals came from Conor Garland and Carl Soderberg. Carter Hutton made 42 saves in his eighth start of the season.
Birthday goal: Eichel, who turned 23 on Monday, gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead when he scored a power-play goal with a wrist shot from the left-wing circle. The goal occurred only three seconds after Lawson Crouse was penalized for tripping Evan Rodrigues.
The Sabres' power play at home ranked second in the league at 36.8 percent, and Eichel entered the day tied for second in the NHL with eight power-play points. Additionally, the Sabres have scored the first goal in 10 of 13 games this season.
Fast start: Skinner kept the Sabres' fast start going when he scored his seventh goal of the season at 11:16 into the game for a 2-0 lead. Skinner entered the offensive zone and dropped the puck off to Marcus Johansson, who fired a cross-ice pass for the assist.
Late response: The Coyotes spoiled the Sabres' momentum when Garland cut the deficit to one goal at 18:50 into the first period. Garland's shot from the left side of the goal line snuck between Carter Hutton's leg pads.
Close call: The Sabres came within inches of pushing their lead back to two goals when a Coyotes defender committed a turnover near the Arizona net. Kyle Okposo retrieved the puck and, rather than shooting from the slot, passed to Johan Larsson, whose one-timer shot was stopped by goalie Darcy Kuemper.
Difficult bounce: Soderberg tied the score, 2-2, with 3:28 remaining in the second period when he deflected a puck on the power play that sailed over Hutton's head and into the net. The Sabres' penalty kill had allowed only one goal at home this season.
Additionally, Buffalo was in control of the game when Soderberg scored. Earlier in the period, the Sabres' forechecking forced five Coyotes to remain on the ice for almost 3:30. Buffalo was out-shot in the second, 15-9.
Big saves: Hutton made a number of quality stops on Arizona scoring chances. His glove save on Vinnie Hinostroza prevented the Coyotes from capitalizing on a 2 on 1, and Hutton blocked a shot with his glove earlier on Arizona's successful power play.
Hutton, though, committed the penalty prior to the Coyotes' tying goal.
Paying tribute: Former Sabres coach Phil Housley, now an assistant coach for Arizona, was honored with a tribute video on the KeyBank Center video board midway through the first period. Housley, a Hall-of-Fame defenseman who played eight seasons for the Sabres, waved to the crowd after receiving a round of applause.
Scratches: Defensemen Marco Scandella (lower body) and winger Jimmy Vesey (upper body) remain out because of injury. Additionally, defenseman Will Borgen was a healthy scratch and participated in the pregame warmup. Borgen, 22, was recalled from Rochester prior to practice Sunday.
Defenseman Brandon Montour, who returned to practice Sunday, remains out day to day as he works his way back from a hand injury.
Next: The Sabres will be off Tuesday and are scheduled to return to practice Wednesday. Their next game is Friday on the road against the Washington Capitals.