GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Craig Anderson made 27 saves in his return from the injured list and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Saturday night.
Kyle Okposo, Peyton Krebs and Alex Tuch scored to support Anderson in his first game since Nov. 2, when he sustained an upper-body injury in a 5-3 loss to San Jose. He missed 33 games.
“I felt like a kid again,” the 40-year-old Anderson said. “I reminded myself of why I put in the work the last couple of months. I had fun. You are playing a kids’ game. If it’s not fun, it’s not time to play any more.”
Anderson lost his bid for his 44th career shutout when Shayne Gostisbehere scored from the deep slot on a power play at 11:30 of the third period. Anderson’s most recent shutout came with Ottawa when he stopped 35 shots in a 4-0 victory over Buffalo on March 26, 2019.
“I think he’s probably one of the best play-readers in the league,” Okposo said. “He kind of knows what’s going to happen. We feel confident with him back there, and happy to see him get back and play well.”
The Sabres played without All-Star defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and forwards Rasmus Asplund and Viktor Olofsson, who were placed in COVID-19 protocol after testing positive before the afternoon skate. Dahlin has a team-high 21 assists and is tied for the team lead with 28 points.
“It was a nice finish to a really chaotic day,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “We’ve all said it so many times: It’s chaotic times because of this (COVID-19). Every day you feel like there is a new precedent, and today was one.
“Craig was amazing. How simple he makes the game look in the net. He reads shooters so well. You can see why he has been a great goaltender in the league for a long time.”
Karel Vejmelka made 32 saves for the Coyotes, who have lost five in a row and seven of nine.
Buffalo had dropped two of three and entered off a 5-0 blanking at Ottawa on Tuesday.
Okposo scored with a wrist shot from the right circle on a power play at 7:02 of the first period, beating Vejmelka low on the far side. Okposo was activated from injured reserve before the game after missing three games with an upper-body injury.
“Coming back, I was excited to play,” Okposo said, “and then it was just boom, boom, boom, boom — one thing after another. You just try to get through the day to 7 o’clock and hopefully you don’t have any more surprises. We just tried to focus on coming together as a team for 60 minutes.”
Krebs made it 2-0 when he scored on a 2-on-1, putting a pass from Casey Mittelstadt past Vejmelka high into an open right side at 15:07 of the second.
Tuch gave Buffalo a 3-0 lead later in the period on a nice give-and-go from Krebs, guiding a cross-ice pass into the open right side of the net.
“That’s high-level skill, both players,” Granato said. “Their careers are evolving. It’s gong to happen more and more. These guys are talented guys and they are working hard.”
Arizona pulled Vejmelka for the last three minutes and created some opportunities but could not score again.
“We were almost there. We were almost touching,” said coach Andre Tourigny, whose team was playing the second game of a back-to-back after losing 2-1 to Boston.
“I don’t think we had the urgency and drive we had most of the year. We didn’t have much.”
NOTES: Sabres D Will Butcher injured his left leg in a collision with Coyotes F Christian Fischer three minutes into the game and did not return. … Buffalo activated G Dustin Tokarski, who missed the previous 20 games while recovering from COVID-19. Sabres G Michael Houser was placed in COVID-19 protocol Friday. … Buffalo waived G Aaron Dell on Saturday, three days after the NHL suspended him for three games for a body check that injured Ottawa rookie Drake Batherson. … Coyotes D Cam Dineen was assigned to Tucson (AHL). … Buffalo assistant coach Matt Ellis and four members of the traveling party also were placed in COVID-19 protocol before the game.
Buffalo: Plays at Colorado on Sunday. The Avalanche have a 17-game home winning streak, fifth-longest in league history.
Arizona: Plays at Colorado on Tuesday.
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