By Jason Lockhart
After getting a late call in their favor, the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Islanders in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, 4-2 Wednesday night at the Nassau Coliseum to earn a 3-1 lead in the series.
The Islanders fell behind early in the second period 3-2, and battled to try and tie the game, which they appeared to do with just under two minutes left in the third period. Brendan Witt jammed the puck through Ryan Miller's five-hole, but referee Mike Leggo immediately called "no goal," saying Miller was pushed into the goal with the puck.
The review went to Toronto to see if the puck had popped loose, and then jammed in. That wasn't the case, so the final ruling went to the on-ice officials. Since Leggo initially ruled "no goal," the call stood.
"We had a chance to look at the replay, and I don't care what anyone says, that was a goal," said Ted Nolan, emphatically. "They said Miller was pushed into the goal, but the video shows that the puck went in, and then Miller was pushed in. It was a goal."
Chris Drury scored two goals for the Sabres, including the game-winner early in the second period. Miller earned the win with 24 saves, while Rick DiPietro stopped 27 of 31 shots.
The Islanders scored the first goal at 6:24 into opening period. As time on the Islanders' first power play expired, Tom Poti found Jason Blake for a one-timer, and his first goal of the 2007 playoffs.
Thomas Vanek tied the score at one when he slapped in his own rebound from the slot with 8:43 remaining in the first period.
Buffalo took a 2-1 lead less than two minutes later when Dainius Zubrus found Drury in front for his third goal of the postseason.
With only 15.8 seconds remaining in the first period, Mike Sillinger got the Coliseum crowd to their feet with a power-play tally. Ryan Smyth raced down the ice to beat Henrik Tallinder to negate an icing call. Viktor Kozlov scooped up the puck, circled the net and found Sillinger in front of the net for a re-direction by Miller.
Blake was violently hit from behind into the boards by Teppo Numminen at the end of the first period, leading to Sillinger's power play goal. Blake left the ice under his own power before returning to the game just before the mid-way point of the second period.
Just 39 seconds into the second period, Drury scored his second of the game on the power play after gathering his own deflected shot and jamming it home.
After the disallowed Islanders goal, the Sabres put the game away when Jason Pominville scored with just over a minute remaining to make it 4-2.
"The Sabres are the Presidents' Trophy-winning team, and for us to battle with them this hard, we have to be proud of our guys," said Nolan. "We haven't gotten any breaks, so we'll have to create our own. We'll re-group and get ready for Buffalo."
Five Stars of the Game:
1. Chris Drury: Two goals, including the game-winner, 4 shots
2. Toni Lydman: A team high 8 blocked shots
3. Mike Sillinger: Evened the score at two late in the second
4. Brian Campbell: Set up the game-winner
5. Tom Poti: One assist, a game-high 26:23 TOI
Fans of the Game: Matt is from Patchogue and, naturally, an Islanders fan, while is girlfriend Kim is from Rochester and, unfortunately, a Buffalo fan. Matt was able to get Kim to wear an Islanders jersey over her Sabres jersey for this game.
Stat of the Game: The Islanders out-hit Buffalo 25-17.
Slapshots: The entire Bridgeport Sound Tigers team made the trip to the Nassau Coliseum to watch the game, after their season ended this week...The Islanders had their second sold-out crowd of 16,234 in these playoffs...The goal was Mike Sillinger's 11th all-time in the playoffs.
Game Operations: Steve Mears filled in for Billy Jaffe to give tonight's Keys to the Game...Heather Kreuzman (seen here) sang the Star Spangled Banner to a thunderous applause after the Video Board revealed the line "Beat Buffalo" on the back of her jersey...During the first intermission, one lucky contestant went home with a pair of round-trip tickets courtesy of American Airlines...The famous Kiss Cam made its triumphant return to the Coliseum...One fan won a record $3,955 in the 50/50 raffle...The Islanders game ops crew put together an action-packed "Big Hits" video montage.
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