The Sabres entered tonight’s contest hosting the Islanders with their season on life support. Desperately in need of a regulation win, and lots of outside help just to keep the pipe dream of earning the eighth and final playoff seed alive, Buffalo held up their end of the bargain. Getting production from their top line and a solid performance from Ryan Miller the Sabres dispatched their cross-state rivals by a score of 2-1.
Ryan Miller made 30 saves, some of them spectacular, and the trio of Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, and captain Jason Pominville combined for 5 points in the victory.
The first 20 minutes were a rather lackluster affair, with the lone goal coming off the stick of Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers. Myers had just come onto the ice and followed the play into the Islanders zone. After Derek Roy chipped the puck towards the Isles goalie Kevin Poulin, Myers cashed in the loose change in front of the net to give the Sabres the 1-0 lead.
Things continued to trend upward for the Sabres early in the second period. Thomas Vanek banked in a great feed from Derek Roy for his 22nd goal of the season, the assist was Roy’s second of the game. Roy continued his stellar play of late, taking the puck wide into the New York zone and setting up camp behind the Isles net before dishing the puck right onto the tape of a waiting Vanek’s stick for the games second goal. Captain Jason Pominville also collected his second assist of the game on Vanek’s goal.
The Islanders nearly cut the deficit in half moments later when Michael Grabner found the puck in the slot and rifled a shot off the crossbar. Just a few shifts later a long pass sprung Jay Pandolfo free for a breakaway on Ryan Miller, Ryan stoned Pandolfo on the first attempt, and made a Hasek-esque sprawling save on the put-back.
Despite back to back golden opportunities for the Islanders, the Sabres maintained their two goal lead after two periods of play. However, Buffalo would have to play out the final stanza without defenseman Robyn Regehr who suffered an upper body injury late in the second period.
The 2-0 score held up until 5 minutes remaining in regulation when Frans Nielsen rocketed a slap shot from the left side between Ryan Miller’s blocker and the post to get the Islanders on the board. On the very next shift Isles forward Matt Moulson nearly tied the game with a one timer from the slot that Miller was able to knock down with his glove to preserve the lead.
Ryan Miller stood tall in the final minute as the Sabres hung on to their one goal lead for the 2-1 regulation victory. About the only thing the Vanek, Roy, Pominville line couldn’t do tonight was score on the empty net as Pominville took a pass from Vanek and wristed a shot off the side of the vacant net with seconds left.
For much of the game the Sabres carried the play against the goal starved Islanders, outshooting them 37-31 in the game, and a decisive 15-6 in the middle frame. The Buffalo defensemen were very active in the offensive end combining for 17 of the teams 37 shots, led by Tyler Myers with 5.
The victory is the Sabres second straight at home, and gives them 59 points on the season (26-27-7). The win also moves them ahead of the Islanders (58 pts) in the standings. Buffalo wraps up their four game homestand against the Boston Bruins on Friday night. The puck drops at 7:30 and the game will be broadcast on MSG.