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game recap

Houser, ECHL goalie, wins NHL debut for Sabres against Islanders

28-year-old makes 34 saves; Varlamov shutout streak ends at 248 minutes

by Heather Engel / Independent Correspondent

Reinhart tips go-ahead goal home

NYI@BUF: Reinhart redirects go-ahead goal home late

Sam Reinhart sets up in front and deflects a Rasmus Ristolainen wrist shot home for a go-ahead goal after a Sabres' faceoff win to make it 3-2

  • 00:40 •

BUFFALO -- Michael Houser made 34 saves in his NHL debut for the Buffalo Sabres, who rallied for a 4-2 win against the New York Islanders at KeyBank Center on Monday.

The 28-year-old hadn't started a professional game since March 7, 2020, with Cincinnati of the ECHL, making 24 saves in a 1-0 shutout against Toledo.

"It's super exciting," Houser said. "I'm not really in that great of game shape either, I'll admit that. So, I was like after the game celebrating and everything, I could barely breathe, so I'm just trying to catch my breath right now. [I'll] give my parents a shout after this and see what their take is on it."

Sam Reinhart deflected a Rasmus Ristolainen point shot to make it 3-2 at 15:56 of the third period, then made it 4-2 with an empty-net goal at 19:08.

Tage Thompson had a goal and an assist for the Sabres (14-32-7), who trailed 2-0 in the second period but ended a four-game losing streak.

"After I saw [the empty-net goal] went in, it was a huge relief," Houser said. "It's so exciting, like, I've worked my whole life for this, for it to happen. Just to play a game it's really special, but to win, winning's always the goal. That's why we play."

Semyon Varlamov made 36 saves but had his shutout streak end at 248:00 for the Islanders (31-16-5). Adam Pelech had a goal and an assist.

The teams play here again Tuesday.

"I thought we played, and I'll use a term I used with the players, I thought we played with a little bit of arrogance," New York coach Barry Trotz said. 

The Islanders clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday but fell to fourth place in the MassMutual East Division following the Boston Bruins' 3-0 win at the New Jersey Devils on Monday.

"Even though we clinched a playoff spot and had an emotional weekend, that's not an excuse," Pelech said. "We're definitely disappointed with how we played, and we're aware of that. I thought we came out sluggish today when this is an opportunity to fight for positioning in the standings, play for home-ice advantage. We just we didn't play our game tonight and we need to get back to it tomorrow."

Video: NYI@BUF: Wahlstrom deflects Pelech's slap shot home

Pelech's pass attempt from the left circle deflected off Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju's stick and over Houser's pad to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 9:15 of the first period.

Ryan Pulock scored 35 seconds into the second period, but the Sabres won a challenge for goalie interference.

Oliver Wahlstrom made it 2-0 at 10:42 when he redirected Pelech's shot from the slot.

"It took us a while to get to our game," Sabres coach Don Granato said. " … It was big that the non-goal was called the way it was. You don't want to fall behind 2-0 at that point, and so that was a key moment. But our guys stayed on it and, again, it was nice to see because of last game and we actually responded and had that in mind where we didn't shoot the puck and we knew we had a tall task today in that regard."

Video: NYI@BUF: Asplund tucks in tying goal down low

Varlamov's shutout streak ended when Thompson cut it to 2-1 from the right circle at 14:04 of the second period.

Rasmus Asplund tied it 2-2 when he took a pass from Reinhart at the side of the net at 11:25 of the third period.

Houser made 15 saves in the third.

"It was very cool. Special. Special. It was fun," Granato said. "I was halfway, I was walking off the bench and I had to stop and watch the celebration and the excitement. What an opportunity and an incredible job to seize an opportunity. A very special night, special person. So, [it was] great to be a part of it.

"And the locker room was even better. The rallying in the locker room was very, very enjoyable for all. What a moment."

NOTES: Varlamov's shutout streak is the 12th-longest in NHL history. Alec Connell has the longest at 460:49, set from Jan. 28-Feb. 22, 1928 with the Ottawa Senators. … New York center Jean-Gabriel Pageau did not play after he missed most of the third period against the New York Rangers on Saturday. Trotz said it's a minor injury and Pageau should be able to play Tuesday. … It was the Islanders' first regulation loss this season when leading after two periods (15-1-1), and the Sabres' second win when trailing after two (2-27-2). … Stefanos Lekkas signed a professional tryout contract with Buffalo prior to the game and was Houser's backup. Lekkas had been playing with Rochester of the American Hockey League.

Video: Islanders, 2 - Sabres, 4

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