For the second time this season, the Islanders came into the First Niagara Center and built up a 3-0 lead. The first time, in December, Buffalo rallied all the way back for a 4-3 victory by way of the shootout.
This time, the rally fell short. Two quick goals in the second period made things interesting, but Buffalo were unable to knot things up. Even with Michal Neuvirth pulled for the last minute or so of regulation, the Sabres weren’t able to apply any kind of real pressure.
As the clock ran down from 10 seconds, the Sabres made their way into the offensive end, but couldn’t get a shot off in time.
“This league is tough no matter where you are, teams are gonna find ways to dig deep and they did that against us tonight,” Drew Stafford.
A big part of the Sabres’ defeat was the fact that they were heavily outshot, 31-10, in a game where their goaltender kept them in it. Michal Neuvirth came up with a couple of big saves to give his team a chance. The 10 shots tied a franchise low for the Sabres, the second time they’ve done that this season.
“It’s not how we want to play,” Brian Gionta said. “They’re a good team but we didn’t help ourselves tonight.”
After entering the third period with a one goal deficit, Buffalo only mustered a pair of shots on Jaroslav Halak.
Colin McDonald tallied his first goal of the year to open the scoring. Anders Lee and Mikhail Grabovski scored 1:02 apart to break the game open, giving the Islanders a three goal lead about halfway through regulation.
Head coach Ted Nolan decided to use his timeout and whatever he said to his club at the bench lit a spark. Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford brought the Sabres back within one, scoring two and a half minutes apart. Foligno also assisted on the second goal of the night.
“When you’re out for a bit, you have that passion, that hunger,” Marcus Foligno said. “Think I was playing with that tonight. When it’s a month away from the game, you give a lot of fire, you want to be an impact player. It’s my job to hit and get to the net.”
The Sabres will continue their homestand on Tuesday night when they host the Ottawa Senators. That game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on MSG.