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Islanders 5, Sabres 2: Barzal’s stunner sent the Isles on their way

They started out slowly, but their best offensive player put on a show to get the juices flowing.

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Sabres, perhaps fired up by the press conference given by GM Kevyn Adams, jumped out to an early lead. The Islanders, meanwhile, looked sleepy in the first period.

But then their superstar reminded everyone about his dazzling skills, tying the game in the second period with one of the most beautiful goals I have ever seen. That play simultaneously sparked the Islanders and slouched the Sabres. Not long after that, Brock Nelson gave the Isles the lead and they didn’t look back.

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First Period: Guys, the Game Started at 1:00 Today

On the first shift of the game, the fourth line played it a little lazy and Semyon Varlamov had yet to settle into the game. The Sabres pushed it into the offensive zone and Jacob Bryson threw a floater from the wall that Varlamov never saw. Buffalo grabbed the 1–0 lead on Bryson’s first NHL goal.

The Sabres carried a little momentum after the goal as the Isles continued their morning routines. By the midpoint of the period, New York awoke. However, they still looked sloppy. They had a few chances in the home plate area but failed to really test Carter Hutton. On the other hand, Buffalo succeeded in getting in near Varlamov.

Second Period: Much, Much Better

The Islanders still seemed sluggish to start the second, but Mathew Barzal found a way to wake up his squad.

Scott Mayfield rimmed the puck around the boards in his own end. It traveled all the way through the neutral zone in the direction of Buffalo’s offensive zone and Barzal sped up to it. Rasmus Ristolainen met him and tried to check him off it. But Barzal dumped Ristolainen on his ass and fought away the puck. Already in tight, he did not have much room to work. So, he flashed his skill. He threw on the brakes, got Hutton to drop down, and tucked it between his legs to beat him. Just, wow. Goal of the year candidate.

Not even a minute-and-a-half later, Brock Nelson put the Islanders ahead. Anthony Beauvillier forced a turnover at the Buffalo blue line. He picked up the puck and stepped over the line by the benches. Nelson flew into the zone up the middle and went unchecked. Beauvillier pushed the puck to him and Nelson snapped it top corner past Hutton.

Now the Islanders were buzzing; a perfect chance for the fourth line to get involved. After some sustained pressure over a few shifts, the Islanders put the puck in the back of the net. Adam Pelech got the puck over to Matt Martin. The pass was in his skates, but he recovered it and shoved it to Cal Clutterbuck. Hutton slid way over toward Martin, so Clutterbuck had plenty of room to score. But he wasted no time.

For good measure, Mayfield added a fourth goal this period. Michael Dal Colle and Jean-Gabriel Pageau combined to force a turnover along the boards to keep the puck in the zone. Casey Cizikas grabbed it and sent it cross-ice to Mayfield. He, too, wasted no time in firing his shot. His goal appeared similar to Noah Dobson’s on Thursday.

Third Period: Sealing the Deal

Buffalo had the lone power play of the game and it spanned the end of the second and the beginning of the third. The Islanders killed off the time, but the Sabres scored just after it ended. Rasmus Dahlin blasted a puck from the blue line and Sam Reinhart, with plenty of space, smacked it out of the air past Varlamov.

However, the captain restored the three-goal lead shortly thereafter. After Anders Lee worked to keep the puck in the zone, he circled the net to find some space. Barzal carried down the wing and saw Lee tapping his stick on the ice. Hutton made the initial save on Lee, but Lee kept pushing until the puck crossed the line.

The rest was elementary. Jeff Skinner had his second of two breakaways today but he remains goalless this season. The Islanders kept up the pressure for most of the rest of the period; while the Sabres did not fully give up as they did on Thursday, they could not recover the puck. It looked like they were standing around.

The Isles won 5–2.

Up Next

These two teams will do it one more time this weekend. As part of Hockey Day in America, tomorrow’s game, at noon, will be on NBC, the only game on network TV. NBCSN will carry three more games throughout the afternoon and evening.