The Islanders new-look top line had another strong outing Saturday night, powering the home team to a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at Nassau Coliseum.
Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Anders Lee combined for four points on two first-period goals, which proved to be an insurmountable lead for their Western New York rivals. Okposo extended his point streak to four games (two goals, six assists), while Nielsen and Lee lengthened theirs to three apiece. Lubomir Visnovksy had a game-high three assists.
“We’ve got some pretty good chemistry,” Okposo said. “Anders has a big body and goes to the net, but he makes plays too. Frans is such a smart, intelligent player, he’s a great centerman and he’s really easy to play with. The three of us have been clicking real well.”
Nielsen opened the scoring with a powerful slap shot through Jhonas Enroth 3:31 into the opening frame. The Sabres goaltender caught the shot high, but could not get all of it, as he watched the puck deflect over his shoulder and into the net. The goal was Nielsen’s 22nd and third in three games.
“He’s a guy who does all the little things and the intangibles in a game,” head coach Jack Capuano said of Nielsen. “He does all the right things. If you want to teach a young centerman how to play the game, tell him to watch 51.”
Fourteen minutes later, Okposo scored the eventual winner – a low snap from the slot – past Enroth on the power play.
After a scoreless second period, Tyler Ennis halved the Islanders lead 56 seconds into the third. The Islanders responded less than a minute later, as Ryan Strome restored the two-goal lead, potting his fourth of the season via breakaway. Strome’s marker gave the Islanders some breathing room, while Cal Clutterbuck iced the game with an empty-netter.
“Even when they got that power-play goal to start the third period – and you guys thought here we go again – we battled back,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We were resilient. It was a good bench here tonight. The guys were positive and willing to work.”
Anders Nilsson stopped 33-of-34 shots in goal, en route to being named the game’s third star. He was aided by an Islanders penalty kill that went five-for-six. Enroth made 34 saves in the losing effort.
After playing their 15th back-to-back set of the season, the Islanders get two days off before hosting the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
NOTES: Prior to the game, the Islanders announced the signing of Adam Pelech, the Islanders 2012 third-round pick, to an entry-level contract… Travis Hamonic led the Islanders with 27:08 TOI… Ryan Strome led the Islanders with six shots… Calvin de Haan and Colin McDonald led the Islanders with six hits… Kyle Okposo is one goal shy of 100 career goals.
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