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Game Preview: Islanders at Sabres

The Islanders take on the Sabres in the final meeting of the regular season between the East-Division opponents

by Sasha Kandrach @KandrachSasha / NewYorkIslanders.com

NEW YORK ISLANDERS (31-16-5) AT BUFFALO SABRES (14-32-7)

7 P.M. | KEYBANK CENTER

WATCH: MSG+ | MSG GO | NHL.TV

LISTEN: 88.7FM | 103.9FM | 98.7FM


The New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres will close out their regular-season series on Tuesday night in the second leg of a back-to-back set at KeyBank Center. The Islanders will have the chance to redeem themselves after Buffalo's 4-2 comeback win - and their first against the Islanders this season - on Monday night.

Adam Pelech and Oliver Wahlstrom scored for the Islanders, while Semyon Varlamov made 36 saves on 39 shots in the loss. Varlamov extended his franchise-record shutout streak to 248:00 before allowing a goal in the second period on Monday

Buffalo overcame a 2-0 deficit with four-straight goals from Tage Thompson (power play), Rasmus Asplund and two strikes from Sam Reinhart, including one empty-net tally. Michael Houser made his NHL debut in net for the Sabres stopping 34-of-36 shots in the win. 

The Islanders entered the matchup coming off an emotional 3-0 win on Saturday night that punched their ticket to the postseason. Following the loss, they didn't claim that as an excuse for their performance on Monday, which they called 'unacceptable' and a 'missed opportunity' as they have the intentions of trying to finish the regular season strong so they can work towards attaining home ice - where they've earned a 20-3-3 record - in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"There's high and lows emotionally throughout the course of a season," Matt Martin said. "We were coming off a bit of low before coming off back-to-back games against the Rangers. We were struggling to find our game against Washington [three-game set, 0-2-1]. Then, we had two obviously strong performances against the Rangers. It's something we should have carried into tonight. We know the way we need to play to be effective and to shut teams down. Especially a team that is out of the playoff hunt. They're going to want to play an easier game and we allowed that to happen tonight. We've got to regroup and prepare for tomorrow."

Fortunately, the Islanders have less than 24 hours to do their best to put Monday's loss behind them, as the teams take the ice again in Western New York. 

With the loss, the Islanders dropped to fourth place (67 points) in the East Division as Boston overtook third place (68 points) with a 3-0 win over New Jersey. Washington jumped to first place with a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh fell to second place (71 points) after losing 7-2 against Philadelphia. 

ISLANDERS NOTES:

•   Varlamov established a new franchise record with his 248:00 shutout streak, which marked the third-longest in the NHL in the expansion era behind only Brian Boucher and Ilya Bryzgalov. The streak is also the 12th longest in league history. The veteran Russian still leads all netminders in the NHL with his seven shutouts this season.

•   Along with Varlamov's shutout record, the Islanders set a team record for a clean sheet at 212:35.

•   Pelech scored his fourth goal of the season to overtake the goals-scoring lead among Islanders defensemen. Along with the goal, Pelech also assisted on Wahlstrom's tally to post a two-point outing. The 26-year-old blueliner has totaled 13 points (4G, 9A) through 52 games this season. On Tuesday night, Pelech will skate in his 300th game in the NHL.

•   Wahlstrom recorded his 11th goal of his rookie campaign and the fourth-most among other first-year NHLers around the league. Through 40 games this season, Wahlstrom has totaled 18 points (11G, 7A).

•   With an assist on Pelech's goal, Josh Bailey extended his point streak to three games with five assists during that span. Through 50 games, Bailey has totaled 33 points (8G, 25A).

•   With an assist on Pelech's goal also, Anthony Beauvillier extended his point streak to three games with four points (3G, 1A) during that stretch. Through 43 games this season, the 23-year-old winger has registered 24 points (13G, 11A).

•   The Islanders power play went 0-for-1 against the Sabres while their penalty kill went 2-for-3. Buffalo's power play marked the first power-play goal against for the Islanders in the last nine games. The Islanders had killed 30 of the last 31 opponent power plays (96.8%) and have scored a shorthanded goal in that span ahead of Monday's game.

•   Jean-Gabriel Pageau missed his second game of the season out of precaution and for "rest" per Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz. Pageau has played in 50 games this year and totaled 28 points (14G, 14A). "It's something minor that we felt we'd give him a break tonight," Trotz said postgame. "He should be able to go tomorrow."

•   With Pageau out of the lineup, Travis Zajac drew back in for the first time since April 27. Zajac logged 14:26 TOI, had two shots, two hits and was plus-one.

•   Brock Nelson skated in his 600th-career game on Monday night. Nelson has totaled 324 points (166G, 158A) in that span.

•   With back-to-back sets this season, Trotz has split games between his netminders, so Ilya Sorokin is likely to see action on Tuesday, though no goaltender has been anounced. Sorokin last dressed for the team on April 27. The Russian rookie has a 12-6-1 record, a 2.19 GAA and a .918 SV%. Three of Sorokin's 12 wins this season have come against Buffalo.

Video: BUF 4 vs NYI 2: Barry Trotz
SABRES NOTES:

•   Thompson scored his seventh goal of the season in the win and his second conversion on the power play this season. Thompson is the son of Brent Thompson, who is currently the head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders' AHL affiliate. Through 35 games this season, the 23-year-old winger has put up 11 points (7G, 4A).

•   Asplund also scored his seventh goal of the season and extended his point streak to three games with as many points in that span (1G, 2A). The 23-year-old Swedish center has totaled 11 points (7G, 4A) through 25 games of his sophomore season.

•   Reinhart, who leads Buffalo in scoring with 40 points, boosted his goals lead as well with his 24th and 25th goals of the season. The winger's been riding the hot hand lately and posted a three-point outing (2G, 1A) on Monday. Reinhart has points in five of his last six games with 10 points (8G, 2A) in that span.

•   Houser made his NHL debut on Monday and recorded his first-career win in doing so with 34 saves. Houser received the opportunity as a result of every single reminder under contract for the Sabres being unavailable. So, Houser, 28, made his NHL debut and played in his first professional game since March 7, 2020 where he had posted a 24-save shutout in the ECHL for Cincinnati.  

•   After converting on the power play in three-straight games, Buffalo's extra-man unit went quiet in back-to-back games against Boston. Thompson's goal got the unit back as it finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play. Their power play ranks 15th in the NHL at 20.9%.

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