GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres cranked up the music and laughed in the locker room. When the music got turned down, someone sneaked over and spun the dial back up, leading to even more laughter.
In a disappointing season filled with long strings of losses, it was good to let off a little steam for once.
Andrej Meszaros scored two goals for the second straight game, and the Sabres ended a five-game losing streak by beating the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 Monday night in a matchup between the NHL’s worst two teams.
“We worked hard for it, and as I’ve said all along, there’s character in this room,” said Buffalo’s Brian Gionta, who scored an empty-net goal. “Everybody’s pushing hard, and there’s a lot of pride in here.”
The Sabres, the NHL’s lowest-scoring team, had a rare strong night on the offensive end, generating 31 shots in the first two periods against goalie Mike Smith.
Meszaros scored his two goals in the second period, Gionta scored while Buffalo was short-handed, and Rasmus Ristolainen added another empty-netter to close out the night.
Buffalo was solid in its end, and Anders Lindback made some spectacular saves while stopping 28 shots to give Buffalo its second win in 14 games (2-9-3).
“It was our best game in a long time,” Lindback said.
The Coyotes had another difficult night in their end, giving up one good scoring chance after another.
Smith was also impressive in keeping the game close, but it wasn’t enough to stop Arizona from extending its home losing streak to eight — one short of the franchise record set earlier this season.
Smith stopped 32 shots overall, and Connor Murphy scored for the Coyotes, who have won once in their past 18 home games (1-15-2).
“Couldn’t win battles down low to sustain anything, and we’re sloppy with the puck the rest of the ice, so that’s where we’re at,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
The first fight for last place took place last week, and it was, well, interesting.
Sabres fans made it clear that they were hoping the Sabres would have the best chance to draft Connor McDavid, considered one of the top prospects in years, booing when Buffalo scored and cheering when the Coyotes won in overtime.
The Sabres called it a low point in a difficult season, almost at a loss for words at their fans’ lack of support as the team tries to finish on some kind of positive note.
The Coyotes wasted little time jumping on Buffalo in the rematch, scoring 1:17 in when Murphy took a shot that Lindback had trouble seeing because of a screen by Arizona’s Dave Moss out front.
Coyotes fans didn’t follow the Sabres’ suit, cheering when the shot found its way to the back of the net.
Buffalo created good scoring chances in the opening period, only to be stopped by Smith, who turned away a couple of short breakaways and made a sprawling save on Cody Hodgson in close.
“When Smitty is keeping us in it, we’ve got to turn it up a little bit,” Moss said.
The Sabres broke through on a power play early in the second period, when Meszaros took a slap shot from near the blue line that Smith couldn’t see through traffic.
Meszaros scored again late in the period on another shot through traffic from near the blue line, just after Smith made a spectacular glove save on Nikita Zadorov.
Lindback made a sprawling save of his own, sliding across the crease to deny Craig Cunningham from close range.
The defenses dominated the third period until Gionta and Ristolainen scored to send the Sabres to a rare victory.
“I really believe for the last number of weeks, we’ve been giving what we have to give,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “It’s great to see when you give it, you get rewarded for it.”
NOTES: Arizona captain Shane Doan played in his 1,390th game, tying Doug Mohns for 36th on the NHL career list. … Buffalo RW Jerry D’Amigo missed his fourth straight game because of an upper-body injury. C Tyler Ennis sat out his second straight due to a lower-body injury. … The Sabres are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games against Arizona and have won five straight in the desert.
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