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Islanders blank struggling Sabres 4-0

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:52 AM

BUFFALO -- A coaching change hasn't helped the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres fell to 0-2-0 since Ron Rolston replaced Lindy Ruff when they were beaten 4-0 by the New York Islanders on Saturday in front of an unhappy sellout crowd at First Niagara Center.

New York killed off all six Buffalo power plays and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made 35 saves for his first shutout of the season and 53rd of his career.

The shutout was the first for Nabokov against Buffalo.

"Sometimes it's funny how it works. You think you're looking the right way sometimes and the puck is going the wrong way," Nabokov said. "Today, every time I tried to look or sometimes guess where the puck was going to go because I had no chance to see it, the puck was able to hit me."

Mark Streit, Michael Grabner, John Tavares and Colin McDonald scored for the Islanders. Matt Moulson recorded two assists.

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller stopped 28 shots.

New York has won four of its past six games after losing five in a row earlier in the month. The Islanders begin a seven-game homestand on Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Sabres have lost four in a row, their first four-game losing streak in regulation since they went 0-5-0 from Jan. 14 to Jan. 21, 2012. Buffalo has lost three straight home games in regulation for the first time since Feb. 16 to Feb. 20, 2011.

Buffalo is tied for last place in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Capitals. Each team has 13 points but the Capitals have two games in hand.

"The work is there. The care is there. Right now it's just the psyche part," Rolston said. "It's important for them to stay on and stay with and stay positive."

The Islanders had the 10th-best penalty-killing unit in the League heading into the game (83.3 percent) and the Sabres entered with the NHL's second-worst power play (12.3 percent).

The Sabres had two power-play opportunities in the first period, and the Islanders killed off both. New York outshot Buffalo, 13-9, in the first.

The Sabres' power play tested New York twice more in the second when the Islanders took consecutive penalties.

"We weathered the storm and [Streit] knocked that first one in. It shows a lot of character on the team there and they didn't get frustrated," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.

A Buffalo power play in the third period was cut short when forward Nathan Gerbe was called for tripping. The Islanders killed off the Sabres' sixth chance late in the third.

With 12:37 left, Nabokov kicked a rebound back into the slot and teammate Frans Nielsen ended up knocking the puck back into him. Later, with the Sabres on the power play, Nabokov fell backward to deny Tyler Ennis from in close.

As that power play expired, Nabokov deflected a shot from Ennis in the slot right to Drew Stafford, but went right-to-left in time to rob Stafford with his glove.

"[Nabokov] played great tonight. It seemed whenever we needed a big stop, he was there to make it," Moulson said. "Some I don't even think he saw them, just a quick reaction. I think you feed off that as a team."

NHL scoring leader Thomas Vanek couldn't beat Nabokov either on the second man advantage in the second period when Nabokov gloved his backhander.

"He probably made five, six grade-A saves," McDonald said. "Again, we weren't generating a good amount offensively. The PK players were running the momentum and he kept us in it."

Streit's goal with 2:09 to play in the second period opened the scoring. The Islanders killed off a penalty to Tavares, who joined the rush as he left the box. Moulson carried the puck over the line and threaded a pass through a crowded slot to Streit. The Islanders captain one-timed the puck past Miller for his fourth goal of the season.

"I was just kind of throwing it there for him and I don't know how he saw it or got his stick on it, but he did a great job putting it in," Moulson said.

Grabner scored on a breakaway 1:05 later to give New York a 2-0 lead. He intercepted a cross-ice pass from Christian Ehrhoff along the Islanders' blue line and raced in alone as Ehrhoff chased him down. Ehrhoff ended up getting a stick on Grabner, but the Islanders forward wristed a shot past Miller for his seventh goal of the season.

"Obviously, Grabner was cheating on that and I should know and I'm out against him on the ice," Ehrhoff said. "He gets about a breakaway once a game. Obviously, against him out there I cannot make that play."

Tavares scored his 12th goal 4:24 into the third period to put him in a tie with Vanek for the NHL lead. Tavares checked defenseman Andrej Sekera behind the Buffalo net, came out in front and snapped a wrist shot into the top far corner.

McDonald added a power-play goal with 58 seconds left in the game. The goal was his third of the season.

Buffalo goes on the road to the state of Florida for two games next week. They will face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday but will first take Sunday off.

"Right now, guys need to step away a little bit and recharge," Rolston said. "Obviously the physical part of the lockout schedule, but just emotionally with what they went through this past week."

Sekera returned after missing three games with a charley horse, but the Sabres lost defenseman Alexander Sulzer in the first period with a lower-body injury after he was checked in the corner by McDonald, who was called for interference on the play. Rolston said Sulzer will undergo some tests but there is no timetable for his return.

The Islanders will look to build on the success they've had on the road with the upcoming homestand. New York is 6-3-1 away from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 2-6-0 on home ice.

"At home [we have to] make sure we're getting pucks in, play solid defensively and play simple like we do on the road," Moulson said.

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