Evgeni Nabokov earned his 300th career win Saturday night as the New York Islanders edged the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 at Nassau Coliseum.
Michael Grabner broke a 2-2 deadlock with 3:03 left in the third period, and Nabokov got some help from his post as he faced down a Thomas Vanek penalty shot with 1:24 remaining. With the win, Nabokov becomes the 26th goaltender in NHL history to reach the 300 mark.
“It’s nice to have it in the pocket,” a humble Nabokov said after the game. “I’m glad that it’s behind us, the boys played really well tonight… Hopefully I have many more in front of me.”
Grabner added an empty-netter to ice the game, but only after the Coliseum held it’s breath as Vanek skated in one-on-one with the Isles netminder. A collective sigh was let out after the reassuring sound of iron.
“I’d like to say that the only area open was my post,” Nabokov joked.
His teammates were excited to be a part of Nabokov’s milestone moment.
“It’s a great accomplishment for him,” Grabner said. “It’s definitely a great honor and it’s nice to see him get it tonight.”
The Islanders used home ice to their advantage against the Sabres, taking a 1-0 lead in the first period. Travis Hamonic fired a shot off the Coliseum end boards, before it bounced out front to John Tavares. Tavares made no mistake and dished it to his favorite target, Matt Moulson, who buried his 21st goal.
The second period was a wild one, as the teams exchanged three goals in a 2:10 span. Patrick Kaleta tipped a Mike Weber point shot past Nabokov at 14:48, Kyle Okposo put the Isles back on top at 16:16, but Derek Roy pulled his team even 42 seconds later.
“We didn’t play our best through two periods,” Matt Martin said. “But it was still a 2-2 game and we knew we could play better. We came out in the third and found a way to win the game.”
Jhonas Enroth was solid in net for the Sabres, stopping 36 of 39 shots. The Islanders were only shorthanded once; they haven’t taken more than three penalties in their last six games.
As part of the Islanders’ 40th anniversary season celebration, Patrick Flatley was inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame before the game. Flatley was the fifth captain in Islanders history from 1991 to his departure in 1996. He spent 13 seasons on Long Island and captained the team to the Conference Finals in 1993.
The Isles wrap up a four-game homestand Monday against the Nashville Predators. Puck drop is at 1 p.m. Saturday’s attendance was 13,848.
1 - 0 NYI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYI
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NYI
4 - 2 NYI