The New York Islanders three-game winning streak came to an end on Tuesday night, as the Isles fell 3-1 to the Buffalo Sabres at Keybank Center.
Casey Cizikas scored the lone goal for the Isles, while Jeff Skinner, Jason Pominville and Johan Larsson scored for the Sabres. The regulation loss was only the Islanders' second in the past 13 games (9-2-2).
"We only played one good period and it was the third," captain Anders Lee said. "They did a good job of frustrating us tonight. We got away from our game because of it and we weren't making plays the first two periods. Credit to them for doing that, but it's really on us to get back to our roots and get back on track."
Video: NYI@BUF: Cizikas nets wrister from the slot
A couple more Islanders echoed the captain, feeling like they strayed from their identity on Tuesday night. Despite holding the Sabres to a mere 10 shots through two periods, the Islanders had trouble generating chances of their own and felt their execution misfire at both ends of the ice.
"We tried to play a different game than we've had success with," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "We're usually a hard-driving north team and we wanted to play cute and we don't play that way."
The Sabres were the more opportunistic team on Tuesday. Skinner sniped a shot past Robin Lehner (19 saves) off an offensive zone draw at 16:25 of the first period, while Pominville chipped in a Jack Eichel feed off a rush generated by an Islanders offensive zone turnover at 6:49 of the second. Sandwiched between them was Cizikas' 13th of the season, a quick shot off a nifty setup from Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck with 22.4 seconds to play in the first period.
The 2-1 deficit had the Islanders in unfamiliar territory, trailing after 40 minutes for only the 15th time in 56 games. The Isles, who've shown a knack for coming back from 2-0 deficits this season, turned it on in the third, but could not get the tying goal past Linus Ullmark (24 saves).
Video: NYI@BUF: Lehner denies bid from Girgensons
Clutterbuck's breakaway with seven minutes left was the clear-cut best chance of the period, but the veteran - back after a two-game absence - had his backhand deke denied by Ullmark's blocker. Mathew Barzal also created a handful of chances in the third period, but Larsson iced the game with 2:25 to go, stuffing a Kyle Okposo shot that just squeezed through Lehner's pads.
"We need to start on time and play the way that's made us successful," Martin said. "We have a chance on Thursday to correct it in a big one against Columbus."
Despite the loss the Islanders still sit atop the Metropolitan Division with 72 points, three points ahead of the Washington Capitals (69 points) and five points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets (67 points) who they play on Thursday.
Cal Clutterbuck returned to the Islanders lineup on Tuesday night after missing two games with an undisclosed injury.
The Islanders two-game road trip wraps up on Valentine's Day against the Columbus Blue Jackets.