The New York Islanders held a late 3-2 lead but were unable to hold on, as the Buffalo Sabres tied the contest in the final minutes of regulation and won 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders outshot the Sabres in each period, and finished with a 44-34 edge overall. They held three different leads in the game, but saw Buffalo respond each time. Although the Islanders didn’t get the result, captain John Tavares said they improved their play from the weekend road trip, in which they mustered 35 shots over two games.
“We put a lot of pucks on net today,” Tavares said. “We didn't get the result we wanted. When we have a lead we have to bear down and find a way to get the job done.”
As the game went along, the physicality level went up, but head coach Jack Capuano said his team struck a balance between playing tough and showing discipline by not taking retaliatory penalties.
“Our discipline was there but we played physical tonight,” Capuano said. “They're a physical team, there's no question. Our guys stuck together. They played a pretty good hockey game tonight in all aspects. I'm proud of the effort they put in and they probably should have been rewarded for that. We'll take the point at home and move on to Thursday night.”
Frans Nielsen’s third goal of the season put the Islanders up 1-0 in the opening frame. Josh Bailey sprung the centerman with a pass through the neutral zone. Nielsen skated in and wristed a shot high-glove side on Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller. With the secondary assist, Pierre-Marc Bouchard registered his first point as an Islander on the play.
Five minutes into the second period, a harmless looking Christian Ehrhoff shot from the point hit traffic on its way to the Islanders net. The puck trickled through Nabokov, and Tyler Ennis tapped in the puck from inches off the goal line.
Matt Martin gave the Islanders the lead again three minutes later. After Casey Cizikas was denied by Miller from in front of the net, the centerman took the rebound from behind the goal line to find Martin on the doorstep. Martin one-timed it to the side of Miller for his first goal of the season.
Seventy-one seconds later, Buffalo tied the contest again on the power play. Quick puck movement from Ehrhoff and Cody Hodgson resulted in a chance from the slot for Thomas Vanek, who potted his third of the season at the 9:19 mark.
The Islanders were awarded a power play in the third period following a skirmish in the Buffalo zone. Steve Ott harassed John Tavares near the Sabres net and was assessed two minor penalties for holding, while Okposo took a roughing penalty after coming in late on the play.
On the resulting man advantage, Tavares ripped a shot from the right circle that banked in off Matt Moulson’s knee at the 8:44 mark. Lubomir Visnovsky earned an assist on the play, which tilted the score to 3-2 in the Islanders favor.
With two minutes remaining in regulation, the Islanders were unable to clear a puck in their own zone and Marcus Foligno capitalized, scoring off a deflection to tie the game at 3-3. The teams remained deadlocked through overtime, before advancing to the shootout.
The Islanders, faced with their third shootout in their first six games of the year, were unable to get the extra point. Moulson scored in the top of the first round, but Thomas Vanek counted in the bottom half. Tyler Ennis scored again for Buffalo in the second round, while Tavares was unable to keep the Islanders alive.
While the Islanders controlled the play for large segments of each period, Nabokov summed up the frustration coming from the home team’s dressing room after the game.
“I thought we played well,” Nabokov said. “This league is all about points; it's not about playing well. We have to find a way to get points.”
With the loss, the Islanders fall to 2-2-2 on the season. They will continue their current four-game home stand on Thursday, Oct. 17, when the Edmonton Oilers visit Long Island.
Nine different Islanders registered one point apiece … Eric Boulton made his season debut, and registered an assist, a shot on goal and two hits and a five minute major for fighting … The Islanders went 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Sabres went 1-for-4 … Travis Hamonic led all players with 27:59 of ice time … Michael Grabner registered a game-high eight shots on goal … Thomas Hickey led the Islanders with four blocked shots … The Islanders won 35-of-68 faceoffs, led by Casey Cizikas, who won 8-of-10 ... Matt Martin led all players with eight hits.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin
26 Thomas Vanek - 19 Cody Hodgson - 9 Steve Ott
82 Marcus Foligno - 63 Tyler Ennis - 21 Drew Stafford
32 John Scott - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 65 Brian Flynn
12 Kevin Porter - 22 Johan Larsson - 8 Cody McCormick
20 Henrik Tallinder - 57 Tyler Myers
10 Christian Ehrhoff - 3 Mark Pysyk
6 Mike Weber - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth