Michael Grabner remained red-hot , scoring two goals in the Islanders 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at HSBC Arena. While he scored twice, the rookie forward was completely unselfish in his second effort, trying to set up Kyle Okposo and Travis Hamonic.
Before taking a shot of his own, Grabner passed to Okposo in the slot, but his shot went wide. A few seconds later, Grabner recovered the puck and passed to Hamonic on top of the left faceoff circle, but the puck didn’t sit well on his stick and deflected wide. Then, with two seconds left on the clock and Grabner at the top of the crease, he passed the puck into the net to give the Islanders a 5-2 win. It would have been Okposo’s first goal of the season and Hamonic’s first NHL goal.
“I tried to set up Okie (Okposo),” Grabner said. “We talked about it before during the faceoff, joking around to get him his first or Hammer (Hamonic), so I tried to set them up, but in the end, I had to do it myself.”
Grabner also opened the scoring, getting them on the board first for the first time in their last nine games. At 7:26, the forward won the battle for the puck behind the goal and passed to the paint. In the commotion, the puck deflected off of Sabres defenseman Tyler Myer's skate. Grabner has now scored five goals in his last four games.
“It was a lucky bounce, but it was nice to get that first goal for once and play with the lead,” Grabner said. “Schrempie (Rob Schremp) made a good play and I went to the net. We talked about our starts being real slow over the last couple weeks and we wanted to get out and get the first goal and play with the lead for once and have the other team scramble back.”
Patrick Lalime #40 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pad save on Michael Grabner #40 of the New York Islanders at HSBC Arena on January 21, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
But the Sabres tried to make it interesting late in the third. Nathan Gerbe scored two goals in a five second span (16:38, 16:43) to end Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin’s joint shutout effort.
“It’s too bad,” Poulin said about letting in the two goals so late into the effort. “But they (the Sabres) worked hard and they didn’t give up. They were two good goals, two great goals.”
Nonetheless, the Islanders goaltenders did a good job. Lawson made the start and saved all 10 shots he faced before suffering an injury to his left knee. Lawson completed the first period, but rookie goaltender Poulin came in to relieve him and made 26 saves on 28 shots. The Islanders were outshot 38-29.
“Unfortunately Laws (Lawson) got hurt, but Kevin (Poulin) came in and did the job for us,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “I mean, they ramped it up. We knew they were going to ramp it up. If we let the puck do the work, we were going to get some odd man rushes and we capitalized.”
Jack Hillen put himself on the scoreboard for the second time this season. Coming up the middle on an odd-man rush, Hillen shot a smooth pass from Blake Comeau and then put in his own rebound at 14:33 to make it to 4-0.
In the second period, John Tavares was coming up the right side of the boards when he was caught in traffic, but he found PA Parenteau wide open in the slot. Parenteau’s goal would lift the Islanders 3-0 and later became the game-winning goal.
Midway through the first period (10:30), Tavares won the faceoff and as the Islanders cycled, Matt Moulson deflected a slap shot from Andrew MacDonald at the blueline to edge the puck past Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. As a result, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff made the decision to pull Miller, a decision he was unhappy about.
“That’s what we talk about, getting pucks to the net,” Capuano said. “Even the second shot, the faceoff goal that we scored there, you get bodies and pucks to the net, good things happen. That’s an area that we haven’t done a good job of lately, getting pucks there and tonight we were fortunate to get that bounce.”
After defeating the Sabres 5-3 on Monday and again on Friday (5-2), the Islanders have one day before facing the Sabres for the third time in nine days. The Sabres will return to Nassau Coliseum on Sunday.