Sabres 6, Islanders 4
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Islanders rookie Robert Nilsson picked up his first NHL goal, but four powerplay goals allowed Buffalo to leave Long Island with a 6-4 win.
A lucky bounce in the Islanders' own zone got things going just after the start of the first period. Trapped in their own end of the ice, the puck ricocheted oddly off the side boards to a waiting Alexei Yashin to help the hosts clear. Moving up ice, Yashin fed Arron Asham, who spotted Satan flying up-ice for a smooth one-timer past Sabres goaltender Martin Biron for a 1-0 lead. Satan, who had a 4-game scoring streak ended Thursday, picked up his eighth tally of the season on the shot.
Just over two minutes later, the Sabres would strike back though, thanks to some confusion in the crease. After making a save off a long-distance Jochen Hecht slapshot, Rick DiPietro lost the puck in his skates. Standing up to find it opened a chance for Daniel Briere and J.P. Dumont to whack at the puck and for Dumont to knock it in to make it 1-1.
The tie wouldn't last long, as the Sabres' Adam Mair picked up two minutes for roughing, putting the Islanders on their first powerplay of the game. At home this year, the Islanders have scored on a quarter of their powerplays, and Zhitnik kept that efficiency going, with his second goal of the season. Picking up a nice pass at the blueline, Zhitnik took advantage of an Oleg Kvasha screen in front of Biron to fire home his second goal of the year against his former squad.
The Sabres came right back, with a man advantage of their own. With Briere and Satan in the box for matching penalties, Asham took down Brian Campbell in a race for the puck, giving Buffalo a 4-on-3 advantage, which they used to find Ales Kotalik at the left point, setting up a slapper that found the back of DiPietro's net for another tie. A 5-on-3 powerplay for New York, built by a pair of Buffalo tripping penalties, didn't change the score as the period wound down.
It took just 50 seconds in the second period for Buffalo to take their first lead of the game. Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder threaded a crisp cross-ice pass to Hecht, sending him in on net. Just inside the blueline, the winger wound up and placed the puck past DiPietro to the short side, over the netminder's glove. The shot ended DiPietro's night early, with three goals on 12 shots, as Garth Snow came into the game.
Snow got some time to adjust until a second penalty to Asham put the Sabres on their third powerplay of the night. The Islanders were successful in killing the two minutes though, while picking up a few scoring chances of their own, including an abortive 2-on-1 by Shawn Bates and Jason Blake. Moments later, it was back to the kill for the home team, but again, the PK was solid, as Brad Lukowich and Chris Campoli blocked a number of shots. After the opening goal by Hecht, the period calmed down tremendously, as the game took on the look of the old NHL. The Sabres managed just six shots, despite having the period's only two powerplays, while the Islanders tested Biron 10 times, without success.
Following a pair of penalties early in the game, Asham got a chance to redeem himself in the third. Some neutral zone bounces made play choppy to start, but when Asham found the puck on his stick at center ice, he spotted Robert Nilsson for a break-in pass that started a give-and-go with Yashin. Skating hard to the net, the captain forced Biron to commit, and passed off to Nilsson, who chipped the puck over a sprawling Biron for his first NHL goal.
The Coliseum goal horn indicated a 4-3 lead for the Islanders, but the tap-in by Mike York in the crease was waved off thanks to a quick whistle by the official. The momentum shifted quickly to Buffalo's side, as a shot blocked by Teppo Numinnen sent Mike Grier off on a breakaway. As Zhitnik dove to knock away the puck, Nilsson was called for a hooking penalty, sending the Sabres back on the powerplay, but another strong effort by the penalty killers kept the game tied.
The Islanders shifted the flow back in their favor, as Satan came back to haunt his former teammates once again, getting a clean faceoff win deep in the Sabres' zone. The puck went directly to Lukowich at the point, who fired a wrister on net that was redirected by Yashin for a 4-3 lead and his seventh goal of the season. But again, the lead dissipated shortly thereafter, as a mishandled puck in front of Snow's net became the fourth Buffalo goal, courtesy of Briere.
A penalty would be the undoing of the Islanders once again late in the third, as Zhitnik was sent off for sending the puck into the crowd. With their third powerplay of the period, the Sabres took a 5-4 lead, as former Islander Tim Connolly knocked a high pop-up in the crease past Snow. Though the play was reviewed by off-ice officials due to the crowd in the net, the score stood. Another penalty by Zhitnik helped widen the gap, as Kotalik put away his second of the game, tucking home a rebound of a Maxim Afinogenov shot from just outside the goal. The game marked the first time the Islanders allowed four powerplay goals since December 30, 1999 (against Pittsburgh.)
ICE CHIPS: 1. Robert Nilsson, 2. Tim Connolly, 3. Ales Kotalik...Right wing Mark Parrish (hip) and Tomi Pettinen (healthy scratch) was out of the lineup Saturday for the Islanders, while left wing Taylor Pyatt (head injury) and defenseman Toni Lydman (groin) were scratched by Buffalo... Saturday night marks the first home game for Alexei Zhitnik and Miroslav Satan against their former team... The powerplay has been a strength for the Islanders at home, as the team has scored on 24-percent of their man-up chances in the Coliseum... Kevin Colley was returned to the Islanders' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport after making his NHL debut Thursday.
Robert Nilsson on his first NHL Goal:
"It was huge for me; this is what I played for since I was little. It's hard to be happy after a loss. I guess I now have 70 games left to score some more."
On the effect penalties have on the line up:
"It's tough when there's penalties because you don't know when you're going to get a chance to go back out on the ice (as part of a regular line)."
Jason Blake on penalties:
"It's our job to stay disciplined and do the job in front of us. It's all about self discipline; the teams around the league are all focused on special teams and everyone in the league has enough talent to score goals (on the power play) if given enough chances."
Garth Snow on what happened during the fifth goal that was tipped in from midair and the effort of the team:
"Someone hit my glove. (Overall) I felt we did a good job battling back and staying in the game."
On entering the game in the second period:
"I just have to be ready when called upon. I'm never surprised when I'm called to go in and I just try to mentally visualize (playing) to get ready."
(45) Arron Asham-(79) Alexei Yashin-(81) Miroslav Satan
(55) Jason Blake-(16) Mike York-(7) Trent Hunter
(21) Robert Nilsson-(17) Shawn Bates-(29) Petteri Nokelainen
(11) Mattias Weinhandl-(12) Oleg Kvasha-(49) Eric Godard
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(25) Brad Lukowich
(24) Radek Martinek-(14) Chris Campoli
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(55) Jochen Hecht-(48) Daniel Brier-(17) J.P. Dumont
(12) Ales Kotalik-(19) Tim Connolly-(61) Maxim Afinogenov
(26) Thomas Vanek-(23) Chris Drury -(25) Mike Grier
(22) Adam Mair-(28) Paul Gaustad-(76) Andrew Peters
(27) Teppo Numminen -(51) Brian Campbell
(10) Henrik Tallinder-(74) Jay McKee
(8) Rory Fitzpatrick-(45) Dmitri Kalinin
(43) Martin Biron
(30) Ryan Miller