GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Buffalo Sabres knew before the puck dropped that they had a chance to climb into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Boy, did they take advantage of the opportunity. Jason Pominville scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season and the Sabres routed the Phoenix Coyotes 7-2 on Monday night. That left Buffalo and Washington at the top in the East with 66 points apiece.
“It’s something we talked about before the game,” Pominville said. “We wanted to make a statement on this road trip.”
Thomas Vanek had a goal and two assists as the Sabres improved to 8-0-3 in their last 11 games, 2-0-1 on their season-high, seven-game trip. Buffalo is 8-0-1 against the Western Conference. Although the teams are tied, the Sabres have played one fewer game than Washington as they head to Anaheim for a game Tuesday night.
“I don’t think a lot of people expected it at the start of the year but we believed, and we still do,” Pominville said. “We’re doing things the right way and we’ve got to keep that going.”
The Sabres scored three goals on 13 shots before Phoenix coach Dave Tippett lifted goalie Ilya Bryzgalov 4:01 into the second period. Bryzgalov has allowed 26 goals in his last seven starts.
It was a season high in goals scored for Buffalo and allowed by Phoenix.
“They played a good game and we played horrible,” Coyotes forward Shane Doan said, “and when that happens the score ends up like that.”
Chris Butler netted his first goal of the season for Buffalo, and Tyler Myers, Patrick Kaleta and Jochen Hecht also scored.
“I said before the game we had an opportunity to tie up top, and our goal is to get there,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’ll enjoy it for the next half-hour, then get ready to play a team that’s been playing real well in their building, and that’s Anaheim.”
Doan scored his 14th goal and Radim Vrbata added his team-high 16th for the Coyotes. Vrbata’s shot glanced off the stick of the Sabres’ Derek Roy and into the net.
Buffalo, which hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Dec. 23, scored just 2:37 in on Myers’ slap shot from between the circles that slammed into the net to the right of Bryzgalov.
The Coyotes had only four shots in the first period.
Butler’s shot dribbled in off Bryzgalov 2:24 into the second period. The shot from the middle of the left circle came after a brilliant pass from Vanek, who spun around and with his back to the net sent the puck across the ice to Butler.
Less than 1 1/2 minutes later, the Sabres ended Bryzgalov’s night when Kaleta’s shot went through the goalie’s legs to make it 3-0.
Doan broke up the shutout when he forced one past goalie Ryan Miller in front of the net. But 24 seconds later, Pominville scored from the right circle against Bryzgalov’s replacement Jason Labarbera.
“You think you’re pretty good,” Tippett said, “and tonight that was a good wake-up call if we thought we were pretty good.”
NOTES: The Sabres have won four in row against Phoenix. … Buffalo’s Tim Connolly had three assists to give him at least a point in 12 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NHL. … Phoenix is 2-2-1 in its season-high, six-game homestand. … Miller improved to 6-0-1 in his last seven starts. … The Coyotes’ Daniel Winnick left the game with an upper body injury.