Nifty number nine.
The New York Islanders have won nine-straight games, matching the second-longest winning streak in team history. Win number nine came via shutout, as they defeated the Buffalo Sabres 1-0 on Saturday night at KeyBank Center.
Derick Brassard scored the Islanders sole goal in the first period to further his goal streak to a career-best, five-straight games, while Semyon Varlamov recorded his first shutout of the season with 27 saves.
"Everybody's playing for each other," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "We make it hard on whoever we play. We play the way we need to play against the team that we're playing because everybody's a little bit different, [they] understand the situation and are fully committed to doing their job well. They know that they have to rely on each other, and they do."
The Islanders last nine-game winning streak occurred from Dec. 31, 1989 - Jan. 19, 1990. The Isles longest winning streak in franchise history is 15 games which was accomplished during the Stanley Cup-winning 1981-82 season.
Video: Varlamov paces Islanders to ninth straight win
ISLES STAY SOLID IN BACK-TO-BACKS:
Both teams entered Saturday night's contest after playing the night before and the fatigue from playing in the second leg of a back-to-back set was visible at times. But back-to-backs haven't hurt the Isles in the stands, as they improved to 14-1-1 on the second night under Trotz.
The Islanders simplified their game and played to the strengths of their system to grind out the valuable two points. They undermanned Isles did so without Nick Leddy, who was ruled out just before puck drop with a lower-body injury. Rookie defenseman Noah Dobson rejoined the lineup in Leddy's place.
The Isles posted a clean sheet, but the game wasn't perfect. They were fortunate to get a lucky bounce on Brassard's goal - a bank shot off Carter Hutton in the first period - as the Sabres struck iron on two separate occasions, but the Isles put forth a total team effort.
Outside of Brassard's fortunate goal, the Isles had chances to cushion their lead. Midway through the second period, Cole Bardreau stripped a Buffalo forward of the puck in the neutral zone and sprung for the breakaway. Bardreau tried to lift a backhander past Hutton but was denied. Ryan Pulock, who scored in back-to-back contests prior to tonight, carried over that confidence and tested Hutton from distance. Anthony Beauvillier put a backhander off the post in the third period.
The Islanders sole power play came in the second period, but both of the Isles power play units didn't generate threatening looks. The Isles penalty kill went 3-for-3 to hold off Buffalo's power play, which is ranked third in the NHL with a percentage of 26.9%. The PK bailed out the Isles after a sloppy, too many men penalties that saw the Isles caught with nine players on the ice.
"[The Sabres] didn't have anything in the third period," Trotz said. "Other than penalty where we had a bad line change there and a little miscommunication and had to kill that off. After that, they didn't have a whole lot which is a really good sign."
Friday marked the eighth time in nine games the Isles allowed two goals or fewer.
Video: NYI@BUF: Brassard scores from behind goal line
BRASSARD SCORES FIFTH GOAL IN FIVE GAMES:
In the past five games, it seems as though anything Brassard touches strikes twine and his goal on Friday was further proof. Hutton abandoned his crease to send a pass out to his blueline when he was pressured by Brassard. The forecheck resulted in a loose puck that Brassard redirected towards the slot, but the intended pass slipped past Hutton and over the goal line.
"I was just trying to put the puck on net," Brassard said. "It [happens] sometimes from those tough angles. I got lucky, but I'll take anything for the team. It ended up being the winning goal."
Upon joining the Isles over the summer, Brassard vocalized his desire to get back to his scoring ways, with five goals in five-straight games, it's safe to say Brassard is getting his mojo back.
With a surplus of injuries to the Islanders forwards, Jordan Eberle (lower body), Tom Kuhnhackl (lower body), Matt Martin (lower body) and Leo Komarov (illness), Trotz experimented moving Brassard to the right wing of Brock Nelson's line with Anthony Beauvillier. The trio has clicked and has provided the Isles with punch of offense while still being a dominant, defensively responsible line.
"When you play in the middle, there's obviously a lot more things you have to think about on the ice," Brassard said. "When you play on the wing, I think my mindset changed to now I can score and make plays...I think my mindset totally switched when I went to the wing. I was like, 'OK, let's make plays here.'"
Video: NYI@BUF: Varlamov keeps Sabres at bay with shutout
VARLAMOV SHARP IN FIRST SHUTOUT AS AN ISLANDER:
In his seventh game for the Islanders and seventh time receiving the starting nod this season, Varlamov was a brick wall for the Isles, as he posted his 26th career shutout. Varlamov was sharp and made timely when the Isles needed it the most to protect the frail one-goal lead that the Isles possessed throughout the whole game.
Particularly, on the three times throughout the game that the Islanders found themselves penalty kill, Varlamov stood on his head to deny Buffalo's power play, which is ranked third in the NHL, from converting. With just under 10 minutes to play in the second period, Varlamov extended his blocker to deny Jake McCabe on one of Buffalo's few chances that was created on the rush.
"Tonight, Varly had to be really good," Trotz said. "He had to control things. He's been playing pretty well for a while and just maybe getting the shutout. I just like that he's calm. Both of our goalies are calm in the net. They're making the saves that they need to make and making ones that you don't expect them to make - which you need. They're dialed in. They prepare like absolute pros. It's paying off for them and for us."
Video: NYI 1 vs BUF 0: Cal Clutterbuck
CLUTTERBUCK PLAYS IN 800TH GAME:
Clutterbuck suited up for his 800th NHL game on Saturday night. Fittingly, Clutterbuck got to have a homecoming of sorts celebrate his impressive accomplishment. The Welland, Ontario native had friends and family make the 40-minute drive from Southern Ontario to Western New York.
At 31-years-old, Clutterbuck is in his 13th season in the NHL where he has registered a career total of 231 points (117G, 114A) and logged 610 penalty in minutes. This season, Clutterbuck has two assists in 12 games played.
"That's a lot of games," Clutterbuck said. "It's been a long time. I think this is one of the first milestone that I've hit and felt a little bit of pride. I tried to take in tonight's game. I had a lot of friends and family here since I'm from 40-minutes away. It was good timing and a nice win."
The milestone is a testament to Clutterbuck's character and determination, especially after undergoing an intensive offseason back surgery to repair a stress fracture, two rotated vertebrae and two slipped discs.
The Islanders play their first game of the season at Barclays Center on Tuesday, as they host the Ottawa Senators.