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[Final] New York Islanders 2, Buffalo Sabres 1: Ain't a New Year's Party without Thomas Greiss

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The latest ridiculous PK streak ends, but the Islanders backup goalie continues to pay dividends.

#1 in your program and #1 in your wins.
#1 in your program and #1 in your wins.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Greiss delivered his latest essential performance in goal for the New York Islanders as they squeaked out a 2-1 win in Buffalo to close 2015 on a high note and jump back over the Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Frans Nielsen scored in the second period after the Isles survived penalty trouble in the first, and Nikolay Kulemin scored an insurance goal early in the third before the Sabres finally got on the board.

The win gives the Isles 47 points in 38 games of 2015-16 -- good for second in the Eastern Conference as well as the Metro. Somehow, they've managed that standing despite going just 3-8-2 against the Atlantic Division.

Box | Game Sum | Event SumWar on Ice || Recaps: IslesNHL |

Game Highlights

The first period was all Sabres, but the Isles can explain. They desperately survived one power play in which Buffalo launched seven officially recorded shots on Thomas Greiss. Shortly afterward, they were on the penalty kill again and then -- bizarrely, given how the play went -- had to kill off a lengthy 5-on-3 with Nielsen in the box.

MSG's Butch Goring thought it was a fine call and undisciplined crosschecking penalty by Nielsen, but I saw it differently: Zemgus Girgensons barreled into Nielsen's legs as they both battled for the puck in transition at the blueline, felling Nielsen and landing him right on top of Girgensons. Nielsen's hand position didn't change, he simply kept his hands on his stick as he fell to the ice, and applied no additional force.

Regardless, that made it a 54-second 5-on-3, and the Isles were patient in killing that and the remainder of Nielsen's penalty off. They then got back to the business of regular hockey.

With all those power plays, the Isles were outshot 17-5 in the first period but they returned the favor in the second period by launching 18 shots on Linus Ullmark. The only one that went past him that period, on the power play, came on Nielsen's retrieval of a goalmouth scramble that Sabres coach Dan Bylsma understandably challenged.

The contention was goaltender interference, as Ullmark was pushed backward toward the net while it seemed no one but the referee could see the puck. Anders Lee was digging under Ullmark's pad while two Sabres defensemen were shoving him toward Ullmark. The officials intently never blew the whistle -- they must have seen a loose puck that most replays didn't -- and it eventually popped open on the doorstep with both Nielsen and John Tavares lunging for it.

It was the only official shot (somehow) of the Isles power play, and the only goal of the game's first 41 minutes.

Kulemin doubled the Isles' lead early in the second period right after Johnny Boychuk fired wide on a golden opportunity to do so himself. Okposo fished out Boychuk's rebound in the corner -- twice -- to feed Kulemin, the fourth man to arrive, at the doorstep.

After a long drought, it was Kulemin's third consecutive game with a goal, itself a rarity we haven't seen since {cues up Hornick}...

The Isles ended up needing that insurance goal. Ryan O'Reilly ended the Islanders' latest penalty killing streak before it reached 40 when he finished a pretty passing play from Jack Eichel on the Sabres power play at 11:18.

But the Isles held on after that, leaning on Greiss for 15 third-period saves (and 42 overall) to seal the win. With Jaroslav Halak on IR but coming back soon -- he practiced with the team in Buffalo this morning -- Greiss' win gives him 11 on the season and one more than Halak.

Injury Concern

Late in the third, Johnny Boychuk crashed into the end boards hard after battling for body position with Eichel. He left the ice holding his shoulder, as his arm absorbed the brunt of his impact with the boards.

Hard to read with Boychuk whether this was a "oh no, this will be long" or just a "shake it off" thing, as he knew he had to leave for the locker room, but he didn't act like a writhing soccer player about it as he skated off.