The Buffalo Sabres committed some costly turnovers in the first period of play and the score reflected it. Buffalo trailed 3-1 heading into the second. Fortunately, the final two periods of play and five unanswered goals reconciled the team's previous sins and elevated the Sabres to a 6-3 victory over the New York Islanders on Monday night in front of a sellout crowd.
"We just kept working," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "There's no quite in them."
Five different Sabres scored as the team notched their 10th victory in the month of December. The franchise-best record for December is 11-2-0 (22 points) in 1976. The team currently holds a 10-2-0 record (20 points) with two games, Toronto on December 29 and Atlanta on December 30, still to come.
"With our forecheck and speed, I really think that we showed that if we can get the puck deep and cycle it, teams are going to have a tough time with us," said Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell.
Chris Drury led the way for Buffalo with a goal and two assists, while Campbell, Ales Kotalik, Thomas Vanek
, Maxim Afinogenov and Jochen Hecht
each recorded a goal and an assist.
Making his 12th start of the season, Ryan Miller
looked shaky in the first, allowing three goals off nine shots, but rebounded in the second and third stopping all 10 he faced.
"I thought we were a little sluggish in the first, but as a team, really refocused and came to life in the second and third," said Ruff.
"I especially like the way our defense stepped up and really contributed in keeping pucks in their zone," said Miller. "We worked them pretty hard and that puck control was big in limiting their shots when we needed them too."
Buffalo finished the game outshooting New York 34-19.
"Tonight showed that we can take charge of a game," said Miller. "It's a big boost for these guys when you get big goals at big times."
Those big goals all came via the Sabres power play unit, with Afingenov's marker in the second, Campbell's game-tying goal and Vanek's game-winner all coming on the man advantage.
"There is a belief that when we get the puck on the power play, we're going to score," said Ruff of the unit which finished 3-8 in the game. "If we are down by a goal or two goals, we still have a shot at winning."
Buffalo jumped out to an early lead when Kotalik redirected Campbell's one-timer from the left point for his team-leading 17th goal of the season.
Jason Blake tied the game five minutes later, beating Teppo Numminen wide on the left wing and snapping a forehand wristshot five-hole on Miller.
Less than two minutes later, Alexei Yashin gave New York their first lead of the contest. Cutting down the right wing, Yashin fired a precision shot from the left face-off dot just inside the left post to make the score 2-1.
Off a fluke rebound with only seven second remaining in the first, a visorless Miroslav Satan increased the Islanders' lead to a pair. Stationed next to the left post, Satan shoveled in Arron Asham's shot from the right point, which ricocheted off the end boards at a 45-degree angle, past Miller who was sprawled at the right post to defend the initial shot.
Afinogenov scored the only goal of the second, the Sabres first power-play marker of the game and cut Buffalo deficit to one at 2:09 of the second. With Buffalo sporting a two-man advantage following penalties on Asham for tripping and Brent Sopel for delay of game, Afinogenov converted on a loose puck directly in front of New York goaltender Garth Snow to make the score 3-2.
The game-tying goal came 27 minutes later when Campbell's one-timer from the high slot beat Snow just inside the right post. Campbell's shot came off a pass from Drury following a shot fake by the Sabres co-captain that froze the Islanders goaltender momentarily.
"We got the puck moving around on the left side, got them moving around and Drury just made a good pass," said Campbell. "I put the shot on net and that's all you can really do."
Vanek gave Buffalo the 4-3 lead with less than five minutes remaining in regulation after stopping Kotalik's offering from the left point with a skate, kicking the puck his stick and wrapping his shot around Snow. The goal was his third in as many games and sixth in his last nine.
"It's a new league to me and the first 20 games were pretty tough," said Vanek of his recent surge. "I wasn't too worried about (not scoring) and just tried to focus on improving each and every game. I feeling more comfortable each game."
Just 11 seconds later, Drury added an insurance marker after cutting between two defenders to the slot and firing a low shot on net to give Buffalo the 5-3 lead.
Hecht added the icing with an empty net goal at 19:43.
------------------------------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
1-0 (5:51): Ales Kotalik redirects Brian Campbell's one-timer from the right point to give Buffalo the early lead. The goal is Kotalik's 17th of the season. Campbell and Tim Connolly are credited with the assists.
1-1 (10:33): Jason Blake beats Teppo Numminen wide around the left wing and snaps a wristshot five-hole on Ryan Miller
. The goal is Blake's 16th of the season. Mike York and Chris Campoli get the helpers.
1-2 (12:03): Alexei Yashin snaps a percision wristshot just inside the left post from the right face-off dot to give the Islanders their first lead of the game. The goal is Yashin 14th of the season. Arron Asham records the only assist.
1-3 (19:53): Miroslav Satan shovels the puck into the open net after Chris Campoli's slapshot ricocheted off the boards behing the net. The goal is Satan's 16th of the season. Campoli and Alexei Yashin get the helpers. Period 2
2-3 (2:09): On a two-man advantage, Maxim Afinogenov converted on a loose puck directly in front of the net. Chris Drury's slapshot hit Thomas Vanek
and trickled to the right post, where it was slapped home by Afinogenov. The goal is Afinogenov's eighth of the season. Vanek and Drury get the helpers. Period 3
3-3 (9:25): Fading to the slot, Brian Campbell one-times a pass from Chris Drury past Snow to even the game at three apiece. Drury's shot fake on the right wing froze Snow momentarily for Campbell. The goal was Campbell's seventh of the season. Chris Drury and Connolly get the helpers.
4-3 (15:01): Ales Kotalik's slapshot is stopped infront of the net by Thomas Vanek
, who reached around snow and slipped the puck into the net. The power-play goal is Vanek's 10th of the season. Kotalik and Derek Roy
record the assists.
5-3 (15:12): Just 11 seconds later, Chris Drury dekes around two defenders, cuts into the slot and beats an off-balanced Garth Snow for his 13th goal of the season. Jochen Hecht
gets the primary and only assist.
6-3 (19:43): Jochen Hecht
gets the empty netter for his eighth of the season.