Skinner scores 22nd goal, Sabres beat Coyotes 3-1
By JONAH BRONSTEIN, Associated Press
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres didn’t need overtime, for a change.
Jeff Skinner got his 22nd goal of the season, Casey Mittelstadt and Evan Rodrigues also scored and the Sabres beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Thursday night for their second consecutive victory.
It was the first time since Nov. 21 that the Sabres won in regulation. Skinner scored the winning goal in Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Kings to snap a five-game skid. Prior to that, Buffalo won twice in overtime and once in a shootout while matching a franchise record with 10 straight victories.
“It was good for us tonight not to extend the game, not to overuse anybody,” captain Jack Eichel said.
The Sabres (20-9-4) have won eight games in overtime and three in shootouts this season.
“It’s important for our team to build confidence going into the third knowing that we can close the game out and not have to take the extra time or the shootout,” Eichel said.
The Sabres scored two early goals and clung to a 2-1 lead for more than 39 minutes before Rodrigues scored an unassisted insurance goal 6:38 into the third period.
Rodrigues picked off a drop pass from Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in the neutral zone, skated around Alex Goligoski and sent a wrist shot past Darcy Kuemper’s blocker.
“I was in a great spot so I just let it rip,” Rodrigues said.
Carter Hutton returned after missing Buffalo’s previous two games with an upper-body injury and made 25 saves.
The Sabres improved to 11-3-2 at home, matching their win total from last season at KeyBank Center.
“It’s important to be good on home ice,” Eichel said. “All the best teams are.”
Christian Fischer scored for Arizona and Kuemper stopped 30 shots. The Coyotes have lost four in a row after a four-game winning streak.
Turnovers from the defensive pair of Hjalmarsson and Goligoski contributed to all three Buffalo goals.
“You can’t do that, especially on the road against a high-powered team like that,” Goligoski said. “When we make mistakes like we did tonight, we are just not going to win.”
Buffalo took advantage of giveaways by Goligoski to build a two-goal lead in the first seven minutes.
Mittelstadt’s goal came 48 seconds into the game. Connor Sheary stole Goligoski’s pass in the neutral zone and dropped the puck off to Mittelstadt for a snap shot from the edge of the left circle.
Skinner scored on a rising wrist shot to make it 2-0 at 6:54 of the first. Sam Reinhart intercepted Goligoski in front of the Sabres net and sent a stretch pass ahead to Eichel. Skating up the right wing, Eichel hooked a pass around Hjalmarsson to a wide-open Skinner in the high slot.
“Some of the veterans, I guess they are taking it upon themselves to make a play,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “We’ve just got to manage the game a little better, manage the puck a little better.”
The Coyotes responded 25 seconds after Skinner’s goal when Fischer beat Hutton with a wraparound backhand that trimmed the lead to 2-1.
NOTES: Fischer got a bloody nose and went to the dressing room after he was checked into the boards from behind by Eichel in the first minute of the second period. He returned for the third. … Reinhart extended his career-best point streak to eight games. … Coyotes C Alex Galchenyuk missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. Galchenyuk skated on Thursday and was listed as questionable to play. … Sabres D Marco Scandella is nearing a return from a lower-body injury that has kept him out for eight games, coach Phil Housley said.
Coyotes: Conclude a back-to-back at the New York Rangers on Friday.
Sabres: Start a two-game road trip at Washington on Saturday.
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