UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – In the penultimate game at Nassau Coliseum, Andrey Makarov made his first career start in net for the Buffalo Sabres, stopping 33 of 36 shots.
The New York Islanders took home a 3-0 victory as Makarov finally got a taste of what it’s like to play in an NHL regular-season game.
The Islanders took the lead on the power play 6:37 into the contest on a slap shot by Kyle Okposo that deflected in off Sabres captain Brian Gionta. Buffalo hung in the game until New York scored twice in the third on goals from Brock Nelson and Nikolay Kulemin.
The Sabres signed Makarov as an undrafted free agent in 2012. With the Amerks this season, the 21-year-old Russian netminder has played in 37 games, recording a 15-17-3 record with a .902 save percentage and 2.98 goals-against average.
After joining the Amerks in March 2014, he helped the team close out its regular season by posting a 7-3-0 record, while registering a .927 save percentage and a 2.20 goals-against average.
In the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs, Makarov went 2-3-0 in five games played and recorded a .907 save percentage and 3.01 goals-against average.
He served as the backup for three games last season and played one preseason game for Buffalo this year, making 27 saves in a shootout loss in Toronto.
He’s up with the Sabres because of injuries to Chad Johnson and Matt Hackett.
Makarov had served as a backup in four games this season including Friday night’s 4-3 loss at home to Chicago. Anders Lindback played that game, making 32 saves. Saturday marked the first time Marakov had seen action in a regular-season NHL game.
All of those experiences helped him look pretty composed in his first NHL action.
“To be honest, I didn’t even get nervous,” Makarov said after the game. “I went into the game, simple as every one. I was more nervous waiting for that shot on net. I had to stop it.”
That first shot came just 48 seconds into the game when Ryan Strome put a wrister on net from 30 feet out.
“I thought he made some really nice saves. It’s never easy,” defenseman Zach Bogosian said. “The Islanders are good team, they’re fast. They throw a lot of pucks on net and I thought he played really well for us. He has a bright future ahead of him. Obviously you’d like to get a win in your first NHL start but I thought he showed tonight that he can battle and he made some big saves.”
Sabres coach Ted Nolan liked how Makarov settled in to put together a solid effort in net.
“He looked like a very confident young man,” Nolan said. “Sometimes when you get those first games in, you’re kind of jittery and nervous and young, but he acted like a very mature guy here tonight. He went in and did his job very well.”
SPECIAL TEAMS PROVE TO BE DECISIVE
Okposo’s tally was the first power-play goal the Sabres had allowed in four games. The penalty kill units had gone 10-for-10 over that stretch.
Buffalo had a chance to tie the game near the end of the second period, with a four-minute power play after Brian Strait caught Nicolas Deslauriers with a high stick. The Sabres sustained pressure in the Islanders zone, but were unable to convert.
“You have to give the Islanders credit,” Nolan said. “They got in a lot of good shot-block lanes. We couldn’t get the puck through. We were moving the puck well.”
ONE LAST TRIP
Sabres assistant coach Bryan Trottier spent 15 seasons with the Islanders, winning four Stanley Cups from 1980-83. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in points (1,353), assists (853), games played (1,123) and plus/minus (plus-470). He’s second in Islanders history with 500 goals.
Sabres TV’s Brian Duff talked with him Saturday morning about his last trip to the Coliseum.
The Islanders will move to Brooklyn next year after calling Long Island home for the past 43 years.
TWO BIG CONTRIBUTORS OUT
Neither Matt Moulson (illness) nor Mike Weber (lower-body injury) made the trip to Long Island. Nolan said prior to the game that Weber’s injury could be season ending. It’s unclear if Moulson will be available on Monday when the Sabres host the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Tops Game Night pregame show will begin at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell with puck drop set for 7 p.m. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.