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Coyotes defensive struggles continue, lose 5-2 to Sabres

© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes lose their third-straight game, this time to the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 at KeyBank Center on Dec. 11.

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Questions arose pregame around how Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka would do in his first appearance since Nov. 22 vs. the St. Louis Blues, and if he was going to show signs of rust.

Due to Connor Ingram starting seven-straight contests, Vejmelka has sat on the bench prior to tonight.

To begin, he was dealt with adversity quick.

Following Vejmelka saving his first shot he faced, Buffalo captain Kyle Okposo buried a rebound to give them a 1-0 lead 2:25 into the game.

Not long after, Sabres right wing and Glendale native Tage Thompson fired a shot off the post.

Tonight, the ‘Yotes turned the puck over when in possession multiple times which gifted scoring chances to Buffalo.

After a shaky start, Vejmelka would slowly get in a groove moving forward after saving the next 11 shots he faced to conclude the initial-20 minutes of play.

Coyotes defenseman Michael Kesselring would score his first NHL goal of his career to tie the game 1-1 3:01 into the second period.

However, the Sabres regained the momentum with left wing Eric Robinson, right wing J.J. Peterka and center Peyton Krebs capitalizing on seperate opportunities, and all of a sudden, the Coyotes were down 4-1.

Moving forward, Buffalo goaltender Devon Levi was reliable all night, turning away prime opportunities that Arizona would create.

In the third period, ‘Yotes right wing Jason Zucker had a breakaway, but his backhanded bid was denied by Levi.

As two penalties were divided on both sides, Coyotes left wing Matias Maccelli found teammate Michael Carcone open for a tap-in to minimize their deficit to 4-2 with 7:13 left in the game. Additionally, Carcone’s tally was shorthanded and his 14th of the season, a team high.

But Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin finished off the Coyotes by scoring an empty-netter to wrap up the contest, 5-2.

Postgame Stats

  • Goaltending – Vejmelka (AZ): 33/37 saves, 4 goals against| Levi (BUF): 21/23 saves, 2 GA
  • Blocks –  (AZ): 11 |  (BUF): 9
  • Hits – (AZ): 26 | (BUF): 21
  • Power-play – Coyotes: 0/3 | Sabres: 0/2

Between the offense having a quieter night than usual and defensive mistakes throughout, the Coyotes couldn’t claw back when they needed to.

With a goal and two assists, Okposo led Buffalo to a 5-2 victory.

Even though he gave up a goal early, Vejmelka settled into the game as it progressed even though the score did not look that way.

Because of this loss, Arizona drop to 13-12-2 on the season with 28 points and are fifth place in the Central Division.

Back on the ice tomorrow, the Coyotes will wrap-up a back-to-back when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins inside PPG Paints Arena in Pennsylvania at 5 p.m. MST.

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Alec Cipollini is a reporter of the Arizona Coyotes and Cardinals for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his X account @AlecCipollini

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