UNIONDALE , N.Y. -- Earlier this season, Jeff Tambellini couldn't even crack the New York Islanders' lineup. After Saturday's performance, he's tied for the team lead in goals.
With his father -- Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini -- in the crowd, Tambellini scored two of the Isles' three even-strength tallies in the second period and added a power-play goal in third as New York won its third straight with an impressive 5-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
"It's a pretty special night for me," Tambellini said. "To have him in the building is just the icing on top. I'm happy he was here and I'm happy he got to see that. It's a great feeling. It's one more thing that I always wanted to accomplish. I look forward to the next one."
Not lost in the shuffle was the performance of Isles goaltender Martin Biron, who stopped all 38 shots he faced for his 200th career victory. It marked just the second time the Sabres (8-2-1) have lost in regulation, while the Islanders (4-4-5) -- who defeated the Rangers, Capitals and Sabres in the past four nights -- have earned points in nine of their first 13 games.
It was Biron's 26th career shutout and first as an Islander.
"It felt great," Biron said of his play and that of his team. "With the way the month started for us, to say that we'd finish this month playing .500 hockey … (it's) three big wins against three big teams, teams that are at the top of our conference right now. To have played that way and responded the way we have, it just demonstrates how the guys want it."
Biron survived an early Buffalo barrage before Richard Park gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead with his first goal of the season at 17:13 of the opening period. Park, who hadn't scored since April 4 -- a span of 16 games dating back to last season -- stripped Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers of the puck near the left circle and ripped a wrist shot past Ryan Miller.
Tambellini put the Isles up by a pair at 9:16 of the second period. Moments after his slashing penalty expired, Tambellini followed up a wraparound attempt by Sean Bergenheim and tapped a rebound past Miller and over the goal line to make it 2-0. It was Tambellini's fourth goal of the season.
"The first few games of the season, he wasn't even on the ice," Biron said of Tambellini. "It just demonstrates that we can use everybody. It's definitely a good sign for our team."
He made it 3-0 just 3:04 later with his second goal of the night, as he positioned himself near the left circle and one-timed a feed from Doug Weight past Miller. The goal prompted Sabres coach Lindy Ruff to replace Miller -- who was also between the pipes for Friday night's 3-2 overtime win against Toronto -- with Patrick Lalime.
"This is the way I usually play," Tambellini said after his first NHL hat trick. "Last year was my first full year in the NHL. Before that, I just played in the American League and this was kind of the way it went. I just feel like I'm back doing my thing again."
The goalie change didn't spark the Sabres, however, as Josh Bailey extended the lead to four just three minutes later with a one-timer of his own. He was in the high slot when he ripped a slow-moving feed from Bruno Gervais past Lalime for his second goal of the season.
Buffalo had only allowed 9 goals in 5-on-5 situations before the Isles torched them on Saturday.
It concluded a remarkable second period for the Islanders, who certainly didn't look like a team that would have a four-goal lead through 40 minutes early in the first, when they were being outshot 8-0.
"I don't think we changed too much … we hit five posts," said Miller, who made 13 saves before being lifted. "We were sharp in some areas, but Marty made some great saves and played solid. Then again, we did ring some posts and missed some opportunities and passed up some shots. It comes down to us being tighter on that side. For me, I could have been sharper, too. Coming back-to-back, I could have been a little more energetic."
Tambellini -- who will face his father's Oilers here on Monday night -- completed the hat trick with 4:18 left in the game on a power-play tally. The former first-round pick (Los Angeles 2003) collected Kyle Okposo's rebound in the crease and backhanded it over the goal line for his sixth goal of the season, tying Matt Moulson for the team lead. It also was the first hat trick ever by an Islander against Buffalo on Long Island.
"Honestly, I did," Tambellini responded when asked if he thought he'd be tied for the team lead in goals a month into the season after watching the majority of games early on. "I had a lot of confidence coming into the year and I felt like I had a shot in preseason. We had a numbers game at the start of the year, and rightfully so. I had to wait a couple of games and prove myself. That's just part of it. I just waited my time."
One person who wasn't surprised by Tambellini's outburst was Islanders coach Scott Gordon, who has seen plenty of No. 15 dating back to his days in the AHL.
"It's obviously exciting for Jeff to be able to get the hat trick," Gordon said. "He had a little extra motivation with his dad being in town. It was nice to see. The biggest thing is he's getting his shot off. He's getting the puck in good situations and he's also going to the front of the net. It's a hard thing when you've had success in the past to know that you can get by on your shot alone if you get to the right places. I think he understands that now. He's making himself more of a complete player, and that's all you can ask."
Biron owes a piece of his shutout to defenseman Radek Martinek, who kept the Sabres off the scoreboard late in the first by denying a glorious chance for Thomas Vanek. Martinek positioned himself near the right goal post and blocked Vanek's shot with Biron out of position.
Biron -- who was a member of the Sabres' organization from 1997 until being traded to Philadelphia in 2007 -- came up with a huge save of his own a few minutes later when he poke-checked the puck away from Clarke MacArthur on a breakaway.
"You certainly can't forget about his contributions," Gordon said of Biron. "There were some areas that we were a little off in. He played well."
Weight had a chance to add to the final margin when he was awarded a penalty shot with 13 seconds left after being slashed on a breakaway, but Lalime stopped his wrist shot.
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com
|Richard Park (1) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 NYI
|Jeff Tambellini (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Sean Bergenheim (3), Richard Park (2)|
2 - 0 NYI
|Jeff Tambellini (5) Snap shot - ASST: Doug Weight (4), Jack Hillen (4)|
3 - 0 NYI
|Josh Bailey (2) Slapshot - ASST: Bruno Gervais (1)|
4 - 0 NYI
|PPG - Jeff Tambellini (6) Backhand shot - ASST: Kyle Okposo (7), John Tavares (6)|
5 - 0 NYI
|John Tavares Too many men/ice - bench|
|Tim Jackman Roughing against Craig Rivet|
|Craig Rivet Roughing against Tim Jackman|
|Radek Martinek Holding against Jochen Hecht|
|Kyle Okposo Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Steve Montador Fighting (maj) against Tim Jackman|
|Tim Jackman Fighting (maj) against Steve Montador|
|Jeff Tambellini Slashing against Nathan Paetsch|
|Jack Hillen Roughing against Nathan Paetsch|
|Nathan Paetsch Roughing against Jack Hillen|
|Thomas Vanek Hooking against Richard Park|
|Andy Sutton Hi-sticking against Drew Stafford|
|Andy Sutton Fighting (maj) against Craig Rivet|
|Craig Rivet Fighting (maj) against Andy Sutton|
|Craig Rivet Instigator against Andy Sutton|
|Craig Rivet Game misconduct|