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Sabres complete sweep of Coyotes

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Something about Phoenix brings out the creative best in the Buffalo Sabres, who are struggling to beat anyone but the Coyotes this season.

Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons scored an unassisted, short-handed goal two minutes into the third period Thursday, giving the Sabres a 3-2 victory over the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena and completing a two-game season sweep.

The Sabres won Dec. 23 when Coyotes goalie Mike Smith inadvertently dropped the puck into his own net after it became caught in his uniform pants in overtime.

"They play the game hard, and sometimes you get lucky against them," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. "The two times we played them ... I mean, we played hard, but we had a little Lady Luck against them."

Girgensons poked the puck away from defenseman Keith Yandle in front of the Coyotes' net and knocked it through the legs of goaltender Thomas Greiss for his fifth goal of the season 22 seconds into a Phoenix power play.

"I saw the opportunity to poke the puck, and luckily it went through," Girgensons said. "Definitely, nobody saw that coming. I caught them kind of by surprise from the back. You just go after it."

Buffalo center Tyler Ennis collected his 12th goal of the season, and Steve Ott added his eighth, a power-play tally. Ott has three goals in the past six games.

Even with the win, the Sabres (15-30-8) have the fewest points in the league. They lost seven of their previous eight games.

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller made 38 saves to improve his record to 6-0 against the Coyotes, who faced their second U.S. Olympic Team goalie in as many games after beating the Los Angeles Kings' Jonathan Quick on Tuesday.

"I guess that's what it takes against these guys," Miller said. "We've had to be opportunistic."

Center Antoine Vermette scored his 20th goal and forward David Moss his sixth for the Coyotes (25-19-10), who took a 2-1 lead after peppering Miller with 21 shots in the first period.

Vermette has eight goals and 10 points in his past eight games. He has four 20-goal seasons, including two with the Ottawa Senators and one with the Columbus Blue Jackets before joining the Coyotes late in the 2011-12 season.

Greiss, who started a second straight game for only the second time this season, made 25 saves.

The Coyotes were unbeaten in their past three games while attempting to climb into contention in the Pacific Division, but after dominating the first period, they showed little in the final two periods.

"We're up 2-1 to start the second and we do absolutely nothing," said right winger Shane Doan, the Coyotes' captain. "Nothing as a group. Absolutely nothing. We had a chance to put a team away when we're up 2-1 at home, and I don't think we got a shot for 12 minutes. It's embarrassing."

Phoenix went 10 minutes, 29 seconds without a shot in the third period, after Girgensons' goal, which came when the Coyotes were unable to clear the puck from their own end.

"We made three really poor mistakes on the same play, and it ended up in the back of the net," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "If you keep turning the puck over, they'll make it hard on you, and we turned it over right until they won."

The Coyotes are in ninth place in the Western Conference, three points out of the playoffs.

"We're barely above average right now, if average," Doan said. "It's not acceptable. Not even close. To not be able to get the next goal when you are at home and you know how big the game is ... It's as a group and it's me, 100 percent me."

NOTES: Buffalo's leading scorer, F Matt Moulson, left the ice after taking a hit on the hand/wrist area midway through the third period and received medical attention afterward. "I don't know if it was a cross-check, a slash," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "He got whacked pretty hard." Nolan said he did know if Moulson would be available to play Saturday in Colorado. Moulson has 15 goals and 18 assists after getting an assist on Ennis' goal Thursday. ... Referee Trevor Hanson was struck in the face by a puck that deflected off the Sabres' goal cage. He left the ice with about three minutes left in the second period but returned in the third period. ... C Radim Vrbata played in his 400th game with the Coyotes on Thursday. It was his 764th NHL game. He also has played with the Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning. All three of his 20-goal seasons came in Arizona, including his career high of 35 goals in 2011-12. ... The Coyotes played their first game since a Wednesday announcement that they will be known as Arizona Coyotes beginning next season. "We want to be recognized as not just the hockey team for Glendale or Phoenix, but the team for the entire state of Arizona and the Southwest," Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said.

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