Keller scores twice in Coyotes’ 5-2 win over Sabres
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Facing a game they could not afford to lose, the Arizona Coyotes found themselves in a two-goal deficit before the opening period was even halfway over.
Rather than light into his team at the first intermission, coach Rick Tocchet remained calm, made a few slight adjustments. His team responded with one of its best periods of the season and went on to a resounding must-have win.
“The last thing you want to do is go in that room and make guys nervous by getting upset,” said Tocchet, who won his 100th game with Arizona. “I honestly thought the last 10 (minutes) we were OK. A couple mistakes and it’s in your net, and then a couple of guys got us back in the game.”
Raanta gave up goals to Marcus Johansson and Jeff Skinner less than a minute apart early in the first period. He was sharp the rest of the way and the Coyotes picked up the pressure, scoring five straight goals to move into a three-way tie for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
“It just shows we’re mentally strong, we don’t give up,” said Raanta, who’s wife gave birth to their second child, Lukas, on Monday. “Every game is crucial and we really needed these two points.”
Buffalo got off to the fast start, but lost momentum in the second period, when the Coyotes scored three goals. Arizona clamped down defensively after Keller’s first goal, pushing the Sabres to the outside, where Raanta could easily track their shots.
Jonas Johansson stopped 26 shots for Buffalo, which has lost three straight to start a four-game road trip and four of six overall.
“It unraveled,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. “There was some fatigue in the minds or something because we lost our game for five or six minutes there and couldn’t get it back.”
The Coyotes had three days off after losing 2-1 to Florida on Tuesday.
The Sabres had a short turnaround, playing their 12th back-to-back of the season after losing 4-2 at Vegas on Friday night. Carter Hutton gave up three goals on 27 shots and Jonas Johansson got the start against the Coyotes.
He was sharp as Arizona had the early jump, then Buffalo got the early two-goal lead.
Skinner scored 44 seconds later on a redirect of a backhanded shot by Wayne Simmonds,
The Coyotes took their turn scoring rapid-fire goals early in the second period.
Oesterle got the first one, one-timing a nifty pass from Keller from behind the goal past Johansson’s glove side. Kessel tied it 57 seconds later, punching in a rebound after a mad scramble in the crease.
Keller put the Coyotes up midway through the second, punching a rebound between Johansson’s pads after Buffalo’s goalie had a turnover behind his own goal.
Keller made it a two-goal lead midway through the third period with his 17th of the season, keeping it on a 2-on-1 and beating Johansson between the pads.
“They got a little bit of momentum, we didn’t respond and they sort of shut it down,” Skinner said. “We showed flashes in the third of maybe creating some chances, but I don’t think we sustained enough pressure to get another one.
NOTES: Buffalo LW Victor Olofsson limped off the ice in the second period and did not return. … The assist by Simmonds on Skinner’s goal was his first point since being acquired from New Jersey in a trade-deadline deal. … Arizona is 9-2-3 at home since Dec. 31. … Kahun’s assist was his second point in two games since being traded to Buffalo by Pittsburgh. … Coyotes D Jason Demers returned after missing 12 games with a lower-body injury.”
Buffalo plays at Winnipeg on Tuesday.
Arizona starts a three-game Canadian trip Wednesday in Vancouver.