After losing to the Sabres earlier in the month, the Islanders came out flying, shutting out Buffalo 4-0 at First Niagara Center. Four different Islanders found the back of the net, with both forwards and defensemen chipping in.
The first period of the game was scoreless, with the Isles spending more time in the Sabres’ zone, and finally the work paid off in the second period — Matt Moulson caught Mark Streit streaking toward the net and hit him with a pass in front, which the captain put home to break the scoreless tie. Marty Reasoner was also cutting to the net, making a (surprisingly) good offensive play to help set up the goal for Streit.
A minute later, Michael Grabner streaked down the left side, getting briefly tied up with a Sabres defender but breaking free just long enough to push the puck through Ryan Miller’s five-hole, making it 2-0. The goal was Grabner’s seventh of the season, and his first in four games.
The Isles doubled this lead in the third period, off of a fantastic individual effort from John Tavares and an insurance goal on the power play by Colin McDonald. It was then that the Sabres began to lose focus, letting frustration get the better of them.
Though the game remained (for the most part) civil, there was a fair delay as both sides got into a tussle, exchanging goalie interference and roughing penalties. It got so heated that Miller even got into the fray, after Matt Martin ran him in retaliation for Marcus Foligno running into Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov made his way down the ice to no avail, as the officials broke up the scrums along the boards.
Speaking of Nabokov, he was superb in this game, stopping all 35 shots faced and providing excellent goaltending during the first period stalemate and on the penalty kill. His glove was particularly good tonight, and was flashed often as the game progressed. For their part, the defense did their best to keep tough shots to a minimum, though they did get caught screening their own goalie at times. Nabokov finished with his 53rd career shutout in the NHL, and his first against the Sabres.
This is the first game in quite a while that the Isles have held a lead to win. I kept expecting another Toronto, or Tampa Bay, or worse, a Winnipeg, but a shutout win in regulation? That’s something special, baby. Not saying it’s going to happen every night or that this is suddenly a WONDERFUL TEAM, but… it’s encouraging.
Until next time.