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Islanders hold Sabres to 10 shots, hang on for victory

by Joe Yerdon /

BUFFALO -- Travis Hamonic isn't known for his offense, but he helped the New York Islanders hold on for a victory against the Buffalo Sabres.

Hamonic assisted on goals by Anders Lee and Mikhail Grabovski to give the Islanders a 3-2 win against the Sabres at First Niagara Center on Sunday.

The Islanders (34-18-1) got out to a 3-0 lead when Hamonic set up Lee and Grabovski 1:02 apart halfway through the second period. Hamonic's two assists gave him his first multi-point game of the season and his first since March 25, 2014 when he had two assists in a 5-4 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"He's been real good for us," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Over this last month or so, he's taken pride, too, in the power play and getting involved in the offense and that's the one thing here in our system that we try to do. He's a defense-first defenseman that loves to play against the opposition's top lines, but tonight, and not just tonight, overall in his play he's been picking it up offensively for us and he's paying dividends for this hockey club."

Lee's 16th of the season came on the power play when he put a rebound of a Hamonic shot past Neuvirth.

"I just think that he's one of those guys, when you look where he's scoring, he goes to the net, he's a tough guy to move," Capuano said. "When you talk about big bodies and net presence, that's the first thing that comes up with Anders Lee. If you're playing with him, you know he’s always going to be around that greasy area."

Hamonic then set up Grabovski high in the slot where he took a wrist shot that beat Neuvirth over his blocker. After an icing call against the Sabres, Frans Nielsen won a faceoff to Hamonic, who found Grabovski alone in the center of the zone.

"It's the little things," Sabres forward Marcus Foligno said. "After an icing, on a faceoff, it's just things. Not enough guys get their man and it's in the back of the net. It's something that it's just X's and O's, you've got to know which man you have. That kind of takes away the momentum. 2-0 lead would've been something that we could've battled back from. When it gets to three goals, it's a little bit tougher."

Islanders forward Colin McDonald scored his first goal of the season with 3:41 left in the first period that gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead. Casey Cizikas set up McDonald's shot after he stole the puck from Sabres defenseman Tyson Strachan. Cizikas passed to McDonald who one-timed a shot past Sabres goalie Michal Neuvirth.

"It was a good job by [Matt Martin] getting out initially and Casey [Cizikas] followed it up,” McDonald said. "It was a 1-on-1 down to a 2-on-1, I was just trying to find a lane for him to get me the puck. I knew he was looking to pass it and he just made a great pass."

McDonald was recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis on Sunday to replace injured forward Cal Clutterbuck.

"I was waiting for my opportunity and you just never really know when you're going to get it," McDonald said. "I understand my role and the role I'm in this year, you just have to be ready whenever they put you in. I was glad to get in there."

The Sabres (16-35-3) tied a franchise low with 10 shots on goal. They also had 10 shots on goal earlier this season on Oct. 28 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We haven't had a game like that in a while," Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. "It's one of those things where I think back-to-back games, I think we need to be a little more simple with the puck, maybe, shorten our shifts. I think some of our shifts started to get a little bit lengthy and that leads to a little bit of fatigue settling in. I think it's just a little more details that kind of escaped from us tonight that kind of came back to bite us."

Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak made eight saves.

Buffalo scored two goals on three shots in the second period. Foligno, playing his first game since Dec. 21 after missing 19 with a broken hand, scored his sixth when he put a rebound of a Nikita Zadorov shot past Halak 1:11 after Grabovski's goal. Zadorov's assist extend his point streak to five games.

"You get the game taken away from you, be away from the boys, you definitely get a little more passion back," Foligno said. "You never lose passion, but you get a little bit of hunger. I was happy to show that tonight and be rewarded for a goal."

Foligno then set up Stafford's ninth goal to make it 3-2 with 5:03 left in the second period.

"I really like Marcus' game," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "He was really coming before he got injured. I’m glad to see him the play the same way."

After the Sabres cut the lead to 3-2, they had two shots on goal the rest of the game.

"We're up 3-0 and I think we only gave up [three] shots in the second period," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "So even though they had the two goals, I don't think they really turned the tide a whole lot other than they capitalized on their chances. ... It's part of the game, they responded and we didn't give them a whole lot in the third. We didn't really give them any opportunities to generate a lot."

Neuvirth made 28 saves in his first start since Jan. 17.

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