For most of Tuesday night, the New York Islanders didn't look a whole lot better under interim coach Doug Weight on Tuesday than they did under Jack Capuano the day before.
With Capuano back at the team's hotel battling a case of the flu, Weight made his debut as an NHL bench boss one day after the Islanders were routed 6-0 at home by Ottawa. Having a different man running the bench made no difference in the outcome as the Buffalo Sabres got 30 saves by Ryan Miller and goals by Tyler Myers and Thomas Vanek to beat the Islanders 2-1 at First Niagara Center.
"We knew what these games were going to be like," Weight said. "This is what we are going to see the rest of the way. This is playoff hockey, it's a 2-1 affair and we were on the short end of it."
The Isles, who lost for the third time in four games, avoided being shut out for the League-leading 11th time this season when Frans Nielsen's slap shot from the left circle beat Miller with 5:08 left in regulation. That ended a scoreless streak of 133 minutes and 14 seconds.
Miller made his best save of the game just over a minute later when he robbed Matt Moulson from point-blank range after a perfect setup by John Tavares.
"That save at the end of the game was huge. It saved the game for us," said center Derek Roy, who assisted on both goals. "He played strong all night."
Miller said he got plenty of help from his teammates, who dominated play for most of the night until the Islanders' late push.
"They're a sneaky team, and they're going to get their chances," Miller said. "For the most part, I thought we did a good job -- they really didn't get a lot of zone time."
The win moved the Sabres (26-27-7) past the Islanders (25-27-8) in the Eastern Conference playoff race and within six points of eighth-place Toronto. The Sabres, who beat Pittsburgh 6-2 on Sunday, have won back-to-back games after losing four in a row.
"From the goalie out, we were disciplined," Roy said.
One night after being hooked after allowing two goals in the opening 95 seconds, rookie goaltender Kevin Poulin kept the Islanders in the game with 35 saves.
"It was just a little bump in the season," Poulin said of his bad start against Ottawa. "I was pleased to have another opportunity right after and I think overall I was pleased with my game -- except we didn’t get the two points."
Said Weight: "He kept us in it. He gave us a chance."
For the second straight day, the Islander found themselves playing catch-up early.
This time, Myers scored 1:21 into the game after a bad defensive exchange in the Isles' zone. Myers crashed the net and fired home a rebound for his sixth goal of the season after Poulin stopped shots by Ville Leino and Jason Pominville.
"I saw Ville come off the wall and take it to the net, and I decided to go sniffing," Myers said.
Vanek made it 2-0 at 3:41 of the second period. He was left wide-open in the slot after a bad line change left the Islanders effectively playing down two men and easily beat Poulin for his 22nd goal of the season.
Miller got a break 75 seconds later when Michael Grabner beat him from 15 feet but hit the right post. He kept the Islanders off the board just over a minute after that when he denied Brian Rolston's breakaway backhander, then rolled over and stopped Josh Bailey's rebound try.
"Great saves like that lead to victory for you," Ruff said.
Poulin was sharp after that, keeping the Islanders in the game although they were outshot 14-6 in the period.
"We had five or six opportunities where we could have put the game away but didn't," Ruff said.
Material from team media was used in this report.
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