The Coyotes had a chance to make up some ground in the playoff race but mistakes and lackluster play conspired together for a 3-2 loss to the visiting Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. Phoenix had a 2-1 lead after the first period and were shutout the rest of the way.
“We're up 2-1 to start the second and we do absolutely nothing, nothing as a group,” Coyotes forward Shane Doan said. “Absolutely nothing. We have a chance to put a team away, when you're up to 2-1 at home. I don't think we had a shot for 12-minutes. It's embarrassing. Embarrassing. That's how the game got away.”
The first period was good for the Coyotes. After surrendering a goal to Buffalo center Tyler Ennis the Coyotes responded in kind with a quick pair of goals.
At 18:30 in the first period Coyotes forward Antoine Vermette put back a rebound for his team leading 20th goal of the season. Vermette is on fire. He has tallied points in his last six-games and in that streak he has seven-goals and two-assists.
The Coyotes weren't done yet. Eighteen-seconds later Phoenix forward David Moss put back a rebound, from teammate Jeff Halpern's shot, and scored his sixth goal of the season.
Unfortunately for the Phoenix Coyotes faithful the home team's offense was done for the night after the barrage of scoring in the second period. The powerful offense was replaced by mistakes and bad luck.
Phoenix forward Paul Bissonnette was whistled for holding at 4:40 in the second period. With three-second left in the power play Sabres center Steve Ott scored his ninth goal of the season and the game was tied.
The score would remain tied until 1:52 in the third period. Buffalo center Zemgus Girgensons deflected a puck off Coyotes' defenseman Keith Yandle's stick and the deflection got past Phoenix goalie Thomas Greiss for what ultimately be the game winning goal.
“The winning goal was just a really poor mistake on our part,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said.
With a win the Coyotes had a chance to make up some ground on the Minnesota Wild for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. But Phoenix couldn't capitalize on the Wilds' Thursday night loss to Colorado and they remain four-points behind them in the Wild Card standings.
Phoenix is 4-5-1 in their last ten-games and the loss dropped their record to 25-19-10. In the midst of their recent slump Coyotes captain Shane Doan offered a blunt assessment of his squad.
“I don't even know what our level is because we're barely above average right now, if average,” Doan said. “It's not acceptable, not even close.”
Phoenix has four-games remaining before the NHL takes a sabbatical for the Winter Olympics. Three of those four games are at home and it give Phoenix the opportunity to go into the break on a high note and possibly make up some ground in the playoff hunt.
Phoenix is off Friday but they host Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
“These four-games are huge,” Moss said. “Going into the break you can't say how important they are. Especially these home ones we have to care of them. It starts Saturday we're going to have to be really prepared for a good Pittsburgh team.”