By Jason Lockhart
The Buffalo Sabres took Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Islanders with a 3-2 victory, Monday night at the Nassau Coliseum.
Adam Mair, Thomas Vanek and Daniel Briere scored second-period goals for the Sabres, who played a sound third period to hold off the Islanders. Ryan Miller made 20 saves for the victory, while Rick DiPietro stopped 32 shots in the losing effort.
"We had some missed opportunities," said head coach Ted Nolan. "We just have to re-group and get ready for the next game."
The Islanders fell behind 2-0 and 3-1, but twice cut the lead to one goal, but couldn't generate much offense in the third period, getting out-shot 17-2 in the period by Buffalo. A couple of late penalty calls on the Islanders in the third period hurt their chances for a comeback.
"I thought at moments we played well, but we need to generate more in the third period," said Ryan Smyth. "We have to use our creativity and get some more shots on Miller."
Smyth was the catalyst in the second period for the Islanders, setting up the first goal and scoring the second with just eight seconds remaining to put the Coliseum crowd into a frenzy.
"Smyth has played some great games for us this year and he's a true competitor," said Nolan. "What you saw tonight is what he's given us since he's gotten here."
It was the first game on Coliseum ice in more than three years, and the place was rockin' more than any other time this season.
"The building was pretty electrifying," said Smyth. "The history speaks for itself with the Cups that they've won. Hopefully, we can generate some of that excitement again and the fans can help us out in Game Four."
Like in Game Two, the Islanders came out with added jump in their step. However, in the first 20 minutes they could only generate one crossbar by Miroslav Satan and two shots to Miller's mask, courtesy of Andy Hilbert and Arron Asham. The Islanders took a 10-9 lead in the shots department after one period.
But it was the Sabres who would score first.
Buffalo struck at 5:17 of the second period off the rush. Henrik Tallinder head manned the puck to Chris Drury, who fed Mair for a re-direction past DiPietro.
At 8:38 of the second period the Sabres took a 2-0 lead when Vanek scored on a wraparound.
The Islanders made it a 2-1 game, 9:52 into the second period. Smyth threw the puck in front of the goal and Trent Hunter battled three Sabres before stuffing the puck through Miller's legs.
Buffalo grabbed a 3-1 advantage on a 5-on-3 power play with 7:07 remaining in the second period. Briere's pass across the crease was stopped, but he gathered his own rebound and roofed it for his first goal of the 2007 playoffs.
"They capitalized on that two-man advantage and it took a little wind out of our sails," said Smyth.
Just when it looked like the Islanders would end the second period down 3-1, Randy Robitaille and Smyth teamed up with eight seconds left in the period to make it a one-goal game. Robitaille faked a slapshot and skated below the goal line before passing the puck through the crease to Smyth, who made no mistake with it for his first goal of this postseason.
The Islanders couldn't muster much offense in the third. DiPietro kept it a one-goal game, but the Islanders couldn't get the equalizer as Richard Zednik and Robitaille were each penalized in the final eight minutes of the game. Following Robitaille's penalty in the final two minutes of the game, and a couple of non-calls against the Sabres, there was an extended delay as the fans showed their displeasure by littering the ice with debris.
Buffalo was 1-for-6 on the power play, while the Islanders were 0-for-4.
Game Four is at 7:30 Wednesday night at the Coliseum.
Five Stars of the Game:
1. Daniel Briere: Scored the game-winner
2. Ryan Smyth: A goal and an assist,
3. Henrik Tallinder: Started the play which led to the Sabres' first goal
4. Brian Campbell: +2 rating, three shots
5. Randy Robitaille: Setup the Islanders' second goal
Stat of the Game: The Islanders won 65% of the faceoffs
Fans of the Game: Corey and Marc are old friends from Merrick, who played on the same soccer team in middle school. Corey has been an Islanders fan since he was five years old and hasn't painted his face to a game since he was nine years old. Corey has been to 20 games this season, usually with his dad, who couldn't make it, so he went with his buddy Marc instead. "He's a good substitute," said Corey.
Slapshots: The Islanders dropped to 7-2 on home ice during the playoffs against Buffalo...The Islanders broke a streak of more than two consecutive home playoff games without a goal...Brendan Witt tallied his first playoff assist in 39 games by earning the second assist on Trent Hunter's goal.
Game Operations: The Islanders Game Ops crew and Islanders TV combined efforts to put together a stirring montage of videos featuring the Islanders' playoff history as well as their improbable run to the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs...Heather Kreuzman opened up the game with a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner...During the first intermission, the Islanders played a little game called Proposal Roulette. After scanning the crowd, the camera finally found George, who proposed to his now-fiance Kee, and she, of course, said yes...Throughout the evening, the Video Board aired "Remember when" segments, which included Jason Blake's hat trick against the Philadelphia Flyers on February 27th and the trade for Ryan Smyth...Bossy's Bunch, which was a group from the Cancer Care from Kids received tickets today due to a generous donation to the Islanders Children's Foundation...It was a whiteout at the Coliseum as every fan received a rally towel.
39 Rick DiPietro
34 Wade Dubielewicz
32 Brendan Witt - 6 Sean Hill
3 Tom Poti - 47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
14 Chris Campoli - 8 Bruno Gervais
94 Ryan Smyth - 18 Mike Sillinger - 7 Trent Hunter
45 Arron Asham - 27 Randy Robitaille - 55 Jason Blake
79 Alexei Yashin - 25 Viktor Kozlov - 81 Miroslav Satan
11 Andy Hilbert - 10 Richard Park - 20 Richard Zednik
30 Ryan Miller
35 Ty Conklin
27 Teppo Numminen - 45 Dmitri Kalinin
51 Brian Campbell - 6 Jaroslav Spacek
5 Toni Lydman - 10 Henrik Tallinder
55 Jochen Hecht - 48 Daniel Briere - 29 Jason Pominville
12 Ales Kotalik - 23 Chris Drury -15 Dainius Zubrus
26 Thomas Vanek - 9 Derek Roy - 61 Maxim Afinogenov
22 Adam Mair - 19 Tim Connolly - 21 Drew Stafford