Putting together back-to-back road wins for the Islanders was an incredibly important task on Tuesday night at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. The Islanders answered the call beating the Buffalo Sabres 2-1, receiving outstanding play from goaltender Al Montoya in his third straight start. Montoya stopped 30-of-31 shots, and endured extreme pressure on a third period 5-on-3 penalty kill for 1:34.
“You like to build on things, we might not have had the success we wanted to, but we’re putting it together,” Montoya said. “It might be a certain shift or a certain penalty kill, but it’s building that momentum and knowing that when you get in that situation again that you’ve been there and you’ve done it and you can do it again.”
Captain Mark Streit was in the box for hooking for a mere 26 seconds when Josh Bailey was called for a questionable kneeing penalty at 11:08. Defenseman Travis Hamonic sacrificed his body blocking key shots (4 on the night), while Montoya kept calm, kept his positioning and stopped shots from Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Marc-Andre Gragnani.
“We know where (Vanek) is going to be,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought that the save (Montoya) made on him in the first period on the breakout was a phenomenal save. It was a great pass and he got his left pad on it so yeah, he played exceptionally well for us tonight.”
The kill helped the Islanders maintain the momentum they’d need to carry them through the end of the game with a one-goal lead.
“It shows a lot about how we’ve come,” Montoya said. “We don’t have a choice. We have to learn and we have to grow fast. Hats off to these guys, I mean they battled. Hamonic blocked two point-blank shots that I would have hurt blocking, so those are just the things the guys have been doing… we’re leaving it all out there.”
Just 1:19 prior to the Islanders big kill (9:23 of the third), Brian Rolston scored the game-winning goal as he stayed with the puck which was bouncing around the crease and the veteran winger shoveled it in past Jhonas Enroth.
“I took about three swipes on that puck,” Rolston said. “It was just a loose one and I couldn’t get my stick on it, but we came right back, stuck with it and Ully (Ullstrom) made a nice play in front. I think they over-pursued about three guys and I was alone in front and stuck it in five-hole.”
On the play, David Ullstrom recorded his first NHL point with the primary assist as his shot on net through the high slot, which was fed by Bailey, stuck in the crease long enough for Rolston to capitalize.
The game was kept scoreless through the middle period and the Islanders entered the third period with a 1-0 lead, but just 1:54 into the final stanza, the fourth line was caught out on the ice with Sabres top line and Jochen Hecht was able to convert to level the score at one. The primary assist came from linemate Jason Pominville with the secondary assist from Thomas Vanek.
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead with a power play goal from Matt Moulson at 6:47 of the first period as Streit’s slap shot from the point deflected off shin pad before knuckling through traffic for his eighth goal of the season. Streit and PA Parenteau had the assists.
“It was just a great team effort,” Rolston said. “Guys were really sacrificing. We need that kind of desperation if we want to get back into this (race for the playoffs).”
1 - 0 NYI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYI