LATE GOAL LEADS TO LATE LOSS
Ales Kotalik scored late in regulation and early in the shootout to lead his Sabres to a 4-3 win over the Islanders Wednesday. Mike York had a goal and an assist and Brent Sopel scored his first goal as an Islander in leading New York to a 3-1 lead, but Buffalo came back to take a 3-0 lead in the season series.
For much of the third period, the Islanders and Sabres couldn't generate much offense as the seconds clicked off the clock quickly. Then a late shooting spree by Buffalo led to a tie game and overtime, as Kotalik carried the puck into the offensive zone along the boards, cut to the net and flicked the puck up and over Rick DiPietro to even the game at three goals apiece. Overtime saw the Sabres controlled the flow of play, trapping the Islanders in their zone for most of the five minutes. The locals were held without a shot on goal in the fourth period, while Rick DiPietro stopped four Buffalo opportunities.
In the shootout, Kotalik delivered again as the Sabres' first shooter, putting a backhand shot over DiPietro's glove for a 1-0 lead. Alexei Yashin tried the same move on Martin Biron, but was stopped to the stick-side. The second-round saw both shooters, Thomas Vanek and Jason Blake, get blanked on deke attempts, setting up former Islander Tim Connolly's chance to put the game away. Stickhandling his way in on DiPietro, he put the puck off the netminder's leg pad with just enough force to push it over the goal line to earn his team the win, as he did the last time the two teams met.
Playing in front of the Coliseum crowd for the first time in 11 days, the Islanders received a pair of early powerplays in the first period, but after being stopped on their first advantage, a holding penalty by Alexei Zhitnik wiped out most of the second. As the Sabres' own unsuccessful powerplay wound down though, Blake set up a dead-center chance for Arron Asham in the slot that Biron stopped, only to get the puck back again to the side of the now open net. Having to corral the bouncing rubber prevented Blake from getting a good chance on goal.
In the first half of the opening period, the locals dominated their cross-state visitors, who looked a bit tired from their loss in the city a night before. Using the Sabres' zone as a shooting gallery, the home team built up a 7-1 shot advantage. On the 8th and 9th shots though, the Islanders broke through Biron. From the right boards, York put a hard wrister on net that rebounded to a pinching Chris Campoli, who fired a slapper on net. Streaking in on goal, York tipped the puck past Biron at the right post for the first goal of the game.
Another powerplay for the Sabres enabled Buffalo to even the score just over two minutes later, as the Islanders were whistled fpr having too many men on the ice. Moving the puck well around the perimeter of the Islanders' zone, Connolly found Brian Campbell at the right point, setting up a blast on goal. Rick DiPietro made the stop, but Sabres captain Chris Drury picked up the rebound from a pile in the crease and put it in the net to tie the game.
In the second, the Islanders were once again given another early powerplay, but they were able to convert on the advantage this time, taking the lead less than four minutes in. York was once again in the middle of things, trying to slam home a wrap-around to Biron's right side. The puck bounced to Sopel on the far boards. A head fake froze the Sabres' defense, enabling him to bank a shot off a Buffalo stick and into the goal to put the Islanders up by one.
Blake pushed the lead to two less than a minute later, working a give-and-go with Mattias Weinhandl. Taking Blake's pass behind the Sabres' net, Weinhandl found Blake darting to the crease, setting up a goal tucked just inside the far post. The Sabres answered back quickly though, on a smooth passing play of their own. Sabres captain Chris Drury pushed a cross-ice pass to Teppo Numminen in the Islanders' zone, who unleashed a slapshot on net. Before it could reach DiPietro though, Jochen Hecht put a stick on it, deflecting it into the net to cut the Islanders' lead in half.
With just under three minutes remaining in the second, Asham had a perfect chance to put his team up by two again, but with the puck on his stick in front of the Buffalo net, he couldn't lift the shot over a prone Biron, putting the chance into his glove instead.
The third period was mostly uneventful, as the two teams traded chances, but neither squad could generate much momentum. The most excitement came with just three minutes remaining in the game, as practically every player on the ice gathered at the Islanders' crease. The Sabres tried to stuff home a game-tying goal, but diving bodies and a sprawling DiPietro kept the red light off for the moment.
Islanders rookie Jeremy Colliton made his NHL debut in the game, going 1-for-2 at the face-off dot. Playing just under two minutes of hockey, the recent call-up was welcomed rudely to the big leagues in the second period, with a big check that put him to the ice behind the Buffalo net. He delivered a check of his own later in the game
OFF THE ICE: For the Islanders, Shawn Bates (hanstring), Petteri Nokelainen (knee) and Tomi Pettinen (healthy) were scratched, while the Sabres sat Daniel Briere (held out), JP Dumont (abdomen), Mika Noronen (groin), Andrew Peters (healthy) and Ryan Miller (thumb)...The Sabres broke a seven-game losing streak against the Islanders with their first win this season, starting their current three-game winning streak... In two games against their former team this season, Zhitnik and Miroslav Satan have combined for three goals and an assist... Colliton is the fifth Islanders to make his NHL debut this season, joining Nilsson, Petteri Nokelainen, Campoli and Kevin Colley.
GOAL OF THE NIGHT: Ales Kotalik's opening goal in the shootout put the Islanders in an immediate hole. After tying the score near the end of the third period, the speedy forward beat DiPietro with a hard backhand off a deke to give the Sabres momentum.
HITTER OF THE NIGHT: Aaron Asham threw his weight around all game, laying out Maxim Afinogenov with a clean, square hit along the boards in the first. The gritty winger was valuable on the penalty kill, helping the Islanders kill three of the four infractions called against them.
UNSUNG HERO: Alexi Zhitnik anchored the defense, logging over 20 minutes of ice time while contributing on the power play and penalty kill units. The defenseman took five shots on net while also blocking three Buffalo shots--both statistics led the team.
IN THE ZONE: Sopel's second period power play goal was the team's third in two games with the man advantage. The Islanders are off tomorrow before beginning a string of three games in five nights, including back-to-back Friday and Saturday matinee. New York came out strong in the first, outshooting Buffalo by a 15-5 margin.
Brent Sopel on his play in the third period:
"The goal (Kotalik's) was entirely my fault. I take full responsibility. I let the guy walk in."
On the strategy of playing in overtime:
"You know going in someone is getting two points. That puts more pressure to get the win in overtime( instead of letting it get to a shootout)."
On the importance of getting points against a team in contention for a playoff spot:
"At the end of the day, getting the win against any team is critical. You can't make excuses. We were fresh and coming back home. We should have had an opportunity to get on them (Buffalo)."
Head Coach Steve Stirling on his team's effort:
"When guys stop skating, it comes back to bite you. We were standing around the last 30 minutes. It's just a matter of poise, patience, and not panicking. We need to be able to find people who will step up at the end of games."
On Kotalik's late goal:
"I don't blame Sopel, it wasn't just him. Buffalo seems to be a better team then us; they've beaten us three times already. "
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(21) Robert Nilsson-(16) Mike York-(37) Mark Parrish
(55) Jason Blake-(12) Oleg Kvasha-(7) Trent Hunter
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(27) Jeremy Colliton-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(25) Brad Lukowich-(44) Janne Niinimaa
(14) Chris Campoli-(24) Radek Martinek
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(55) Jochen Hecht-(23) Chris Drury-(25) Mike Grier
(28) Paul Gaustad-(22) Adam Mair-(8) Rory Fitzpatrick
(26) Thomas Vanek-(9) Derek Roy-(61) Maxim Afinogenov
(24) Taylor Pyatt-(12) Ales Kotalik-(19) Tim Connolly
(5) Toni Lydman-(10) Henrik Tallinder
(45) Dmitri Kalinin-(74) Jay McKee
(27) Teppo Numminen-(51) Brian Campbell
(45) Martin Biron
(50) Michael Leighton