Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller Lead Sabres to 2-1 Victory

Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller Lead Sabres to 2-1 Victory BUFFALO, N.Y. — As long as the
Phoenix Coyotes kept taking penalties, the Buffalo Sabres weren't going
to get frustrated about being unable to solve goalie Jason LaBarbera.

Thomas Vanek snapped a late
third-period tie with a power-play goal, and Ryan Miller made 23 saves
to help the Sabres to a 2-1 victory over the Coyotes on Thursday night.

Vanek cashed in on Buffalo's seventh
power-play opportunity with 3:53 to go after defenseman James
was sent off for cross-checking him behind the Phoenix net.

Scottie Upshall received four minutes
in penalties in the final period, wasting a great effort from LaBarbera
while leaving new Coyotes coach Dave Tippett livid.

"We're in a game that our goaltender
is giving us a chance to win and we go out there and take six more
minutes in penalties? That's disgusting," Tippett said. "That's giving
games away. That's bad discipline on our part and that's situations
that can't happen."

LaBarbera made his first start for
the Coyotes after signing as a free agent. He finished with 37 saves,
many coming in spectacular fashion.

"Anytime you join a new team you want
to show them a good effort," he said. "It would have been nice to win,
but it was one of those games where I needed one more save."

Clarke MacArthur added a goal and assist for the Sabres, who rebounded from a season-opening overtime loss to Montreal.

Matthew Lombardi scored for the Coyotes.

Phoenix (2-1), embroiled in off-ice
controversy since filing for bankruptcy in May and nearly winding up in
nearby Hamilton, Ontario, then enduring a coaching change just before
the season, lost for the first time and was denied its best start since
2003. The Coyotes return home on Saturday to play their first regular
season game in Glendale since entering bankruptcy protection.

"We've been told this first game's
already sold out," captain Shane Doan said. "We're excited about that.
It's obviously a difficult situation, and nobody wants to be in it."

Vanek scored from the slot, one-timing MacArthur's pass from underneath the goal line.

"We had chances but just couldn't
get them," Vanek said. "We stuck to our systems, stuck to our game and
got rewarded in the end."

Phoenix forward Petr Prucha was
knocked out of the game 32 seconds into the second period after taking
a hit from Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta. Martin Hanzal jumped Kaleta
and received 19 minutes worth of penalties, leaving Phoenix two players
short for most of the period while giving the Sabres a 4-minute power

Buffalo peppered LaBarbera with six shots during that stretch, but came up empty.

"We could have had three or four in the second period, but their goalie was unbelievable," MacArthur said.

Tippett didn't have an update on
Prucha, who was leveled after playing the puck along the side boards
before turning to skate up ice.

"If it was a high hit to the head, the league will look after it," Tippett said.

After two scoreless periods the Coyotes broke through on Lombardi's power-play goal 2:37 into the third period.

MacArthur tied it 97 seconds later
after Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers was able to keep the puck in
the Phoenix zone before feeding MacArthur. Myers earned his first
career NHL assist on the play, but was shaken up after the pass after
taking a hit by Doan. Myers was on the ice for a couple of minutes then
left under his own power.

Miller kept the game scoreless in the second period with 4:42 left, robbing Radim Vrbata with a glove save while on his stomach.

Referee Bill McCreary
officiated in his 1,600th NHL game. … Buffalo C Adam Mair missed his
second game because of a hip injury, but is close to returning. … The
Sabres were also missing D Toni Lydman (hand). … Buffalo won both
games last season by a 7-1 margin. … Miller had not allowed a goal to
the Coyotes in his seven-year career.

TMZ logo

© 2019 NESN

Partner of USATODAY Sports Digital Properties