The New York Islanders out-shot Buffalo 43-15, but lost a nailbiter 3-2 to the Sabres on Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
John Tavares twice beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, only to see a pair of third period attempts carom off the post. His second shot off the iron came on a penalty shot late in the third period, with his club trailing 3-2.
Despite the final result, Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano was pleased with the effort his team showed.
“Our battle level (compared to) the Rangers game was night and day,” Capuano said. “Our guys left everything they had on the ice tonight and just came up short.”
Visnovsky recorded 20:34 of ice time in his first game as an Islander, posting a plus-2 rating with three shots on goal. Bailey led all players with seven shots in 12:48 of ice time, but did not find the score sheet.
“I felt good,” Bailey said after the game. “I felt good conditioning-wise and good with the puck. It was a good start. Hopefully I can build off it. Vish played a great game as well. You look at him and you can see he’s definitely going to help our squad.”
The Islanders controlled the play early, holding a 15-4 advantage in shots on goal in the first period, but it was Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek who drew first blood with his league-leading 11th goal of the season. Cody Hodgson took a whack at a loose puck in front of Evgeni Nabokov, but Vanek finished off the play at 9:11.
The Islanders knotted the game at one on John Tavares’ team-leading sixth goal of the season. Brian Strait took a shot from distance, and Tavares, who was circling behind the Buffalo goal, picked up the rebound to Miller’s left and punched it in at the 19:18 mark.
All six of Tavares’ goals have come in the last seven games.
The Sabres re-established their lead 12 minutes into the second period on Christian Ehrhoff’s first tally of the season. Ehrhoff and Hodgson executed a give-and-go on the rush, and Ehrhoff’s wrist shot went top shelf over Nabokov.
Colin McDonald tied it up again for the Islanders late in the middle period on his first goal as an Islander. Casey Cizikas’ backhand feed to the slot hit McDonald for a one-timer through traffic at 17:35. Strait earned the secondary helper on the play for his first career two-assist game.
“I think when you get a guy like Visnovsky in the lineup, you are able to create more four-man attacks,” Capuano said. “Buffalo did it all night. That’s something that we want to have in our attack. We feed off one-another. I thought our D activated well and got some chances. We were real good in the offensive zone with our gaps and keeping pucks in and getting pucks to the net.”
The Sabres took a 3-2 lead on a tip-in at 7:35 of the third. Alexander Sulzer deflected Steve Ott’s one-timer from the point through a screened Nabokov for the game-winning goal.
Despite outshooting Buffalo 14-4 in the final frame, the Islanders never found the equalizer, dropping their fourth straight game.
“You don’t want to talk about how well we played when we lose,” Bailey said. “You’d rather come in here and talk about how we played poorly but found a way to win. We’ve got some things to build off of, but still at the end of the day we have to get the two points.”
The Islanders are back in action on Monday, Feb. 11, when the Carolina Hurricanes make their first visit of the season to Nassau Coliseum.
New York Islanders
26 Thomas Vanek - 19 Cody Hodgson - 29 Jason Pominville
82 Marcus Foligno - 63 Tyler Ennis - 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott - 25 Mikhail Grigorenko - 36 Patrick Kaleta
32 John Scott - 55 Jochen Hecht - 42 Nathan Gerbe
6 Mike Weber - 44 Andrej Sekera
10 Christian Ehrhoff - 3 Jordan Leopold
33 T.J. Brennan - 52 Alexander Sulzer
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth