(WGR 550) – What a return for Buffalo Sabres goalie Craig Anderson, as he stopped 28 of 29 shots faced to beat the Arizona Coyotes, 3-1.
Anderson has missed almost three months of action with an upper-body injury, but never missed a beat. His teammates were superb in front of him for 51:30, winning battles in all three zones and staking him to a 3-0 lead.
Then, they gave up a goal to the worst power play in the NHL and they went from playing great hockey to mass retreat.
Arizona was all over Anderson, as they spent the rest of the game in Buffalo’s end, but Anderson was a wall in net.
“It was a game where they came out of the gate hard, had a couple of chances quick and then things settled down and we took the pace," the 40-year-old said following the win.
“I felt like a kid again. I reminded myself tonight on why I’ve put in the work the last couple months, you know, go out there and enjoy it and have fun.”
In the final eight-and-a-half minutes, Anderson was diving, squirming, doing anything he could to get in the way of a puck.
“They had a pushback in the third that was testing for the old heart rate, so it was good to get through that," Anderson said. "Battle through it, and getting the win was huge for our guys.”
This was a hard day for Buffalo, as just before they went on the ice for the morning skate, they found out they had three players, one coach and four members of the traveling party in NHL COVID-19 protocols.
With no way to bring players in from Rochester, Sabres head coach Don Granato had to dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards.
On his first shift, defenseman Will Butcher injured his left knee and was done for the night.
Buffalo let none of it bother them, and they dominated the first 51 minutes of the game. They were hard on battles, fast on pucks and backed the Coyotes' defense off at every turn.
Buffalo used a power play goal from Kyle Okposo that Karel Vejmelka would want back to score first.
The Sabres then showed the skill that we’ve been wanting to see on the next two goals. Casey Mittelstadt worked a 2-on-1 to perfection, finding Peyton Krebs for a layup, and then Alex Tuch and Krebs worked a give-and-go, which ended with Krebs using phenomenal vision to find Tuch for a tap-in.
In their last 10 road games, the Sabres are 5-3-2, getting points in seven of them.
Buffalo stays on the road on Sunday for a date against the Colorado Avalanche, who will be without their superstar in Nathan MacKinnon.