This was one of those games where the Isles needed two points, and this time they got them in classic boring Islanders fashion. Minus an early scare that led to a great Varlamov save and the Sabres’ dominant power play getting a goal, the Isles were in control against a depleted Buffalo team coming off a long COVID-mandated layoff.
The Isles have now turned their 0-3-2 stretch into a 4-0-3 stretch, and they’re now 3rd in the MassMutual East Division.
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The moment that could have changed the game came early, when Jack Eichel got the puck to Victor Olofsson, who had a ton of time and space to put one past Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov, however, was not having that - he got a piece of the puck, forcing it off the post instead. If the Sabres score that one, it could be a different game.
Instead, Anders Lee opened the scoring. Mat Barzal made a physical play along the boards to get the puck, dish it off to Josh Bailey, who gave it to Lee in front for a perfect tip up high on Linus Ullmark. Barzal’s secondary assist would be his 11th point in his past 9 games - the longest point streak in his career thus far.
The CAPTAIN!— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) February 16, 2021
IslANDERS strike first in Buffalo. #Isles
: https://t.co/2YQTLOCx8m pic.twitter.com/n7BKDPadtK
It was good to see Bailey get involved after what has been a pretty rough stretch for him.
Then, a couple of minutes later, JG Pageau would get past Rasmus Dahlin to get a clear look at the toy department to score the Isles’ second goal of the game. It’s probably a goal Ullmark would want back, but Pageau will take it, extending his streak to 4 goals in his last 3 games.
PAGEAU PAGEAU PAGEAU!— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) February 16, 2021
Make it 3️⃣ straight games with a goal for JG. #Isles
: https://t.co/2YQTLOCx8m pic.twitter.com/jU9QlUY2T9
Adam Pelech went off for tripping Jeff Skinner, triggering the Sabres’ top 5 power play. Olofsson would make up for hitting the post by scoring a PPG to cut the Islanders’ lead in half.
The Isles would get their two goal lead back, though, when Islanders Legend Brandon Davidson went to the box for holding Casey Cizikas. Brock Nelson scored on the power play, his 3rd goal of the season, Josh Bailey picked up his second assist of the night, and Oliver Wahlstrom picked up his first NHL assist on the goal.
Josh Bailey ➡️ Brock Nelson. #Isles convert on the PP.— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) February 16, 2021
: https://t.co/2YQTLOCx8m pic.twitter.com/QrXsWNdHEU
The Islanders closed out the period with 30 seconds of penalty killing after Cizikas was called for slashing.
The Isles killed the next minute and a half-ish of Sabres power play, and then with two seconds of 5v4 left, the Sabres took a too many men on the ice penalty. This Isles power play was... not good, but the Isles had all the energy in the third, holding the Sabres to [checks notes] zero shots on goal in the period.
The Sabres were unable to pull Ullmark until about 1:30 was left on the clock with the Isles applying pressure on the forecheck, and the best opportunity was when Anders Lee hit the post on a slow empty net shot. Ultimately, the Sabres obviously couldn’t score on the shots they didn’t take, and the Isles won 3-1.
- It’s been a while since the Sabres have played a hockey game, and they were still without much of their defense. This was a game the Isles needed to win and they did what they were supposed to do.
- As much as I’d like to believe in my own amazing psychic powers, it’s really a big improvement that the Isles power play has been pretty reliable during this streak. Getting those goals help build confidence and really gives the team momentum.
Next, the Isles take on the Sabres again tomorrow. Possibly a start for Sorokin and a return for Beauvillier? Tune in to find out!