Arizona Coyotes' Radim Vrbata leaves it late vs. Buffalo Sabres

By Craig Morgan, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 27, 2017 at 6:40 AM
share with facebook
share with twitter
| License Photo

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While teammates keep getting traded all around him, Arizona Coyotes right winger Radim Vrbata just keeps rolling.

Vrbata ripped a slap shot through a screen with 18.9 seconds left in regulation as Arizona rallied from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Sunday at Gila River Arena.

The winning goal, which came mere hours after good friend and fellow Czech Republic native Martin Hanzal was traded by Arizona to the Minnesota Wild, gave Vrbata 600 career points and extended his point streak to nine games (4-7-11).

"He's had a great season," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of Vrbata, who leads the team with 46 points. "He's just a consummate pro that shows up and does his job every night."

Arizona's win snapped a two-game losing streak overall and a six-game losing streak to Buffalo. The Sabres were 8-1-1 in their previous 10 games against the Coyotes overall and had won seven straight at Gila River Arena.

Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues scored for Buffalo, which fell seven points off the Eastern Conference playoff pace following a pair of losses this weekend on the road to the two worst teams in the league, the Colorado Avalanche and the Coyotes.

Anders Nilsson made 26 saves for Buffalo (26-26-10).

"We let them come at us a little bit too hard," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We were a little too passive in the neutral zone, and they came at us with a ton of speed. We still had plenty of opportunities to put the game away. Regardless of the opponent, it can't happen where you feel like you have the two points in your back pocket."

Max Domi and Jamie McGinn also scored for Arizona (22-32-7). Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue made 31 saves.

Eichel opened the scoring at 18:01 of the first period when he ripped a wrist shot through the screen of Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy and past Domingue's glove hand for his 14th goal of the season. Eichel extended his point streak to six games.

Eichel has 36 points in 41 games since returning from a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for the first 21 games of the season. He has 13 points in his past 10 games, but Buffalo is just 19-17-5 since he returned.

"It's tough to swallow; we've blown a lot of leads this year," Eichel said. "We don't push for that next goal. It's a dagger that you come on a road trip and get no points."

Rodrigues widened the lead to 2-0 in a four-on-two rush just after a Coyotes power play had expired at 9:53 of the second period. Eichel carried the puck into the offensive zone and slipped a cross-ice pass to Jake McCabe on the left wing. McCabe passed right back to Rodrigues for a tap-in into an open net. It was Rodrigues' second goal of the season and second in as many nights.

Domi pulled the Coyotes within 2-1 at 6:42 of the third period. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen's clearing attempt deflected off Vrbata and onto Domi's stick for a one-timer between the circles.

McGinn tied the game with his ninth goal of the season, 100th of his career and first in 14 games when he took a bouncing feed from Josh Jooris and buried it at 13:41 of the third period. Jooris was playing center in the wake of the Hanzal trade and Alex Burmistrov's upper-body injury.

Vrbata's game-winner came through a maze of traffic to give him goals in four consecutive games.

"The goalie was playing so well that I thought it would be tough to get something by him," Vrbata said. "(Tippett) knows how to use me, and I like to play his style of game. That's been the case."

NOTES:

-- The Coyotes traded C Martin Hanzal and RW Ryan White to Minnesota for a 2017 first-round pick in 2017, a second-round pick in 2018, a conditional 2019 fourth-round pick and minor league RW Grayson Downing.

-- Arizona C Alex Burmistrov (upper body) is day-to-day.

-- Coyotes G Mike Smith was feeling well enough to back up Louis Domingue on Sunday, but not well enough to start. Smith missed Friday's game in Dallas due to an undisclosed illness.

-- Coyotes C Brad Richardson, who fractured two bones in his right leg on Nov. 17, skated with the team on Sunday morning. Richardson, who is on injured reserve, still hopes to return this season.

-- The Sabres recalled RW Justin Bailey and LW Evan Rodrigues from AHL Rochester.

-- Sabres RW William Carrier (knee) is day-to-day.

-- With Sabres G Robin Lehner banged up from a game against Colorado on Saturday, the Sabres recalled G Linus Ullmark to back up Anders Nilsson.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories