The New York Islanders picked up their first win of the season on Saturday, beating the Buffalo Sabres 6-3 in their home opener at Barclays Center.
John Tavares and Casey Cizikas each scored a pair of goals and an assist, while Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier each lit the lamp for the Islanders. Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves for his first win of the season on Saturday, holding the fort during a Sabres third period push.
"We were a lot more aggressive," Tavares said. "Not much indecision in our game. We were on our toes, straightforward and just got after it from the drop of the puck and it led to some good results. We felt we had a lot of possession. Obviously some opportunities that we gave up let them back in the game and we want to clean those up, but obviously good to bounce back from last night."
Video: Tavares, Cizikas lead Isles past Sabres in 6-3 win
Evander Kane (2G) and Jack Eichel scored for the Sabres, who drop to 0-1-1 on the season. Robin Lehner allowed four goals on 16 shots before being pulled in the second period. Former Islander Chad Johnson stopped 15 of 16 shots in relief.
The win improves the Islanders to 1-1-0 on the season and helped erase some of the sour taste from the season-opening loss in Columbus and improves to 27-12-6 all-time in home openers.
"It's only game two, but it was a pivotal game forsure," Jordan Eberle said. "I've been on teams that have started poorly and confidence-wise it buries you. Getting off to a good start is huge in the NHL. It gives you confidence."
THREE TAKEAWAYS FROM SATURDAY'S WIN:
1. OFFENSE COMES ALIVE:
After getting blanked by Columbus on Friday night, the Islanders offense came alive on Saturday, putting up six goals on the Sabres. The Islanders got goals from up and down their lineup on Saturday, an encouraging sign for the team that finished 10th in goals for a season ago.
Video: BUF@NYI: Isles net three goals in two minutes
John Tavares led the way with a pair of goals, including his first connection with Jordan Eberle, but it was a explosive 1:47 span that was the difference on Saturday. Tavares and Casey Cizikas scored a pair of shorthanded goals 50 seconds apart on the same kill and with the ice firmly tilted and Barclays Center humming, Josh Bailey buried a Joshua Ho-Sang feed for his first of the season. By the seven minute mark of the second period, the Islanders were up 4-0 and chased Lehner. Beauvillier added some insurance by banging home a Nick Leddy rebound in the third period and it was needed, as the Sabres made a third period push. Cizikas iced it with an empty-netter.
2. EBERLE AND TAVARES FINDING CHEMISTRY:
Video: BUF@NYI: Tavares buries Eberle's dish on the rush
Jordan Eberle and John Tavares hooked up on the Islanders first goal of the night (and season) on Saturday. Eberle broke up a play in the defensive zone, rushed the puck up the ice and dished to Tavares on a two-on-one that the captain put past a flailing Lehner.
"He puts the puck in good spots and is reliable all over the ice," Tavares said of Eberle. "It's great to see him make a really nice play. I had the easy part and it gets him feeling comfortable. Good to connect on that one."
This was the type of result envisioned when the Islanders traded for Eberle in June, pairing the all-star winger with the Isles all-star captain. Eberle and Tavares had previous chemistry from their international play together at the IIHF World Championships and World Juniors, but it still took some time to foster during training camp. Head Coach Doug Weight played and practiced Tavares with Eberle nearly all of camp and it paid off in the second game of the season.
"He plays a similar style to me and I think the speed that he plays at I'm comfortable with," Eberle said. "He thinks the game and I think of myself as a cerebral player, so I think it's only going to get better the more we play together and find tendencies with one another's games."
3. SHORTHANDED GOALS:
Video: BUF@NYI: Tavares tallies his second goal shorthanded
The penalty kills were the story of Saturday's game, as the Islanders and Sabres combined for four shorthanded goals, netting two apiece in the second period. Tavares, who's a relative newcomer to the penalty kill after debuting there last season, kicked off the shorthanded flurry, turning a Sabres defensive zone turnover into a nifty backhand goal. Cizikas followed up 50 seconds later, unloading a missle off the rush after being sprung by Andrew Ladd.
Head Coach Doug Weight said he'd never been a part of a game with four shorthanded goals in a period, but said he was a little concerned with the two goals his power play allowed.
"We have to fix some things 5-on-4 in our advantage, but we did a great job penatly killing," Weight said. "We unfortunately let them back in, we have to work on decision making and get them in the film room and figure it out, but we'll be fine."
The Islanders PK went 3-for-3 on Saturday, while the power play went 0-for-3.
Video: BUF@NYI: Cizikas slaps home shorthanded goal
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT:
There were a highlight reel plays to choose from on Saturday night, but getting a glimpse at the Eberle-Tavares connection gets the nod.
Video: BUF@NYI: Tavares buries Eberle's dish on the rush
The Islanders honored the family of NYPD Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, the Long Island native whose life was lost in the line of duty in November, on Saturday night. Tuozzolo's sons Austin and Joseph dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game.
Video: Islanders welcome Tuozzolo family for puck drop
Saturday's Charity of the Game was St. Jude Research Hospital.
The Islanders are back in action on Monday afternoon when they take on the St. Louis Blues in a Columbus Day matinee. Puck drop is at 1 p.m.