The last time the Buffalo Sabres played the New York Islanders, they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win in a shootout.
However Sunday evening, in the second game between the two clubs this season, the Sabres were unable to generate enough offense to complete another comeback, falling 3-2 at First Niagara Center.
Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford picked up Buffalo’s goals while Michal Neuvirth turned aside 28 of 31 shots. Colin McDonald, Anders lee and Mikhail Grabovski scored for the Islanders. Jaroslav Halak made eight saves to record the win.
Down 3-0 after in the second period, the Sabres scored on two of their three shots in the middle frame. But only managed nine more attempts at the net in the third period with just two of them counting as shots on goal.
Buffalo tied its franchise record for fewest shots in a game with 10. That record was set this season in a 4-0 loss on Oct. 28 in Toronto.
“Ten shots in a game just isn’t going to cut it. You don’t give yourself a chance to get back in the game,” captain Brian Gionta said. “I thought we had a good push there in the second, but regardless, we’ve got to do a better job throughout the whole game.”
A LITTLE SPARK
Following Grabovski’s goal to put the Islanders up 3-0 with 8:38 remaining in the second, Buffalo called a timeout and it seemed to give them a bit of a jump.
It was only 1:10 later when Nikita Zadorov registered the team’s first shot on goal of the period. Foligno jumped on the rebound and crashed the crease to put Buffalo on the board.
Foligno returned to the Sabres lineup after missing the past 19 games with a broken hand. He made an immediate impact, registering a goal and an assist.
“You always like to get points, but it tastes way better when it’s a win,” he said.
Foligno now has six points (4+2) in his last seven games played.
“I really liked Marcus’ game. He was really coming before he got injured and I’m glad to really see him play the same way he was playing before he got injured,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said.
“It seemed like he really matured over the last month or so he’s been out of the lineup. He was very vocal on the ice and in between periods. He really wanted to take a leadership role on this team and it was very good to see.”
Zadorov has at least a point in each of his last five games played, totaling six assists in those games.
For Buffalo’s second goal, Foligno passed the puck to Drew Stafford over the blue line. He cut in on Jarsolav Halak and put in a backhand for his ninth goal of the season.
Stafford has five points (1+4) in his last five games against the Islanders
Just being back energized Foligno and his presence seemed to give his line with Stafford and Brian Flynn a boost.
“Marcus, you call him ‘Moose’ for a reason,” Stafford said. “He’s going to go to the net pretty hard like that and whether he scores off his face or his stick, he’s going to go hard. Bottom line is it’s disappointing we weren’t able to get this one.”
Foligno sustained the injury in a fight on Dec. 21. He’d been practicing with the team since they returned from their nine-day road trip following the All-Star Break and had been itching to get back in a game situation.
“It was a month and a bit away from the game. You get hungry and ticked off a little bit when you’re away from the guys,” he said. “You miss it a lot and you give a lot of fire in that first shift.
“You want to be an impact player and when you come back right away from an injury, it’s all about staying in the lineup, too. My job is to play hard, hit and get to the net and it was great to get rewarded.”
Buffalo’s five-game homestand continues on Tuesday when they host the Ottawa Senators. The Tops Gamenight pregame show begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell with faceoff scheduled for 7 p.m. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.