BROOKLYN, N.Y. –
Before Sunday’s game, Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma was asked what’s surprised him most through 11 games this season. Bylsma pointed to the team’s resiliency and desire to battle back in games.
That undying spirit was on display Sunday night in Buffalo’s 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the New York Islanders at Barclays Center. Matt Moulson and Sam Reinhart each scored in the third period to springboard the rally.
“One thing we’ve seen from our team is a continual willingness and ability to fight and scrape and claw. That was evident tonight,” Bylsma said afterwards. “We got the lead there in the third and then we put it away with a lot of great efforts from guys down the stretch.”
The Sabres were down a goal heading into the third period and were being outshot 23-12. Matt Moulson, celebrating his 32nd birthday, scored on Thomas Greiss 6:20 into the final frame to tie it on a centering feed from Zemgus Girgensons.
Then with 6:16 remaining in regulation, the Sabres broke up the ice out of the defensive zone and crashing the net, Sam Reinhart put home a pass from David Legwand.
“Legwand faked everyone almost – including me – on the pass across. He made it easy for me,” Reinhart said. “There wasn’t much room to pass it across and he really fired it in. It was a great play.”
Buffalo was also wrapping up a grueling stretch in which they’d played four games in six nights, three of which were on the road. The Sabres came out of it 3-1-0 and don’t play again until Thursday night when they host Tampa Bay.
“We’ve been making some strides in playing how we want to play. That’s controlling the puck in the O-zone, getting the puck there quickly and making sure we’re getting shots at the net,” Moulson said. “That’s how we’ve been the last little while. We’ve stuck with our game and eventually it seems like we get a break or a big goal and we get some momentum.”
MAYDAY’S MOMENT OF THE GAME
On Matt Moulson’s 32nd birthday, he received the perfect present: A gift-wrapped, cross-crease pass from Zemgus Girgensons midway into the final frame. Moulson’s goal evened the game at one and gave the Sabres some much needed belief. – Brad May, Sabres TV Analyst
Bylsma rolled four lines consistently throughout the game, spreading out the minutes among his forwards. No penalties were called on either side, which played a big part in how he was able to manage his players’ ice time.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a perfect score sheet like that with no penalties for or against, but the referees, I don’t think there was much out there for the refs to call. But it doesn’t happen very often.”
The last time Buffalo played in a game without any penalties wasn’t all that long ago. Their 4-3 win over Carolina on April 6 featured no special teams play.
‘HE CAME UP BIG’
Linus Ullmark picked up the second win of his career, turning aside 29 of 30 Islanders shots.
New York took the lead with 6:18 to play in the second period when Calvin de Haan’s shot from the point found its way through traffic and in past Ullmark, who was down on the ice to try and cover the lower part of the net. After a scramble in the crease, the puck made its way out to de Haan, who spun around to control it and then fired a shot in from 44 feet away as Ullmark was unable to recover.
Allowing that first goal didn’t seem to faze Ullmark and his even keel has impressed Bylsma.
“He just seems to have a calm demeanor in net and he came up big,” Bylsma said. “I think he had three or four real big saves in the third that – I don’t want to say he made look easy – but they were big saves.”
Ullmark was quick to credit the play of his teammates and their rising confidence.
“That’s how you create a winning team. You’ve got to get those wins when you’re scrambling for every inch out there,” he said. “I think we did an awesome job out there today.”
The game marked Buffalo’s first contest at Barclays Center, the Islanders’ new home this season.
The NHL contest was the third hockey game of the day played at the arena. Earlier, Army took on Bentley and Notre Dame – featuring Sabres prospects Cal Petersen (19 saves) and Connor Hurley (three assists) – defeated UConn 8-2.
The Sabres will be off on Monday and return to practice on Tuesday. They’ll host the Tampa Bay Lightning – their third of four games against the Lightning this season – at 7 p.m. on Thursday.