The New York Islanders finally saw their hard work pay off Saturday night as they defeated the visiting Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum 4-1.
Lubomir Visnovsky had three assists for the Islanders while goalie Anders Nilsson made 33 saves to earn his third win of the season. Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome and Cal Clutterbuck scored the Islanders goals.
The Islanders were outshot in the first period 14-10 but led 2-0 after Nielsen scored his 22nd goal of the year at 3:31 and Okposo added his 27th of the season on the power play at 17:24.
Rookie Anders Lee earned an assist on Nielsen’s goal, giving him 10 points in nine game this season. Lee has now registered at least one point in three straight games and in five of his last six contests.
The game was chippy throughout and included a bout between two heavyweights when Matt Carkner and John Scott dropped the gloves at 9:15 of the first period. Scott got some good punches in early but Carkner rallied later in the fight.
The Isles maintained their 2-0 lead into the third period but Tyler Ennis scored on a wraparound just 56 seconds into the final period to pull the Sabres to within a goal. It also made the Isles’ faithful fearful of another third period collapse by their team.
But the Islanders erased any thoughts of a Buffalo comeback when they scored the prettiest goal of the night just 39 seconds after Ennis’ goal. Matt Martin made a beautiful pass that found Strome all alone cutting to the slot and Strome scored to make it 3-1 Islanders.
“It was kind of a broken play,” Martin admitted. “I heard Strome over there and he was all alone so I just tried to get it to him.”
“To get that two-goal lead back was pretty big and it was a nice play by Marty [Martin] there,” Strome said.
Clutterbuck added the icing on the cake when he scored into an empty net with 2:13 left in the third period and the Islanders had ended their three-game losing streak at home.
The Isles played solid defense throughout the game and their goalie was quick to credit his teammates for their efforts. “The whole team in front of me played an unbelievable game,” Nilsson said. “They cleared the guys who were in front of me so I had a clear view of every shot and they took away the back door plays.”
The win felt good for an Islanders team who finally saw their hard work pay dividends. “We dropped a game last night and you never want to lose games back-to-back,” Martin explained. “We’re playing hard and we’re playing pretty good hockey and we just have to keep it up.”
The Islanders return to action Tuesday night when they host the Minnesota Wild at 7:00 PM. It is the third game of a four-game home stand for the Isles.
Attendance was 14,388.
Former Isles’ coach Ted Nolan was behind the bench for Buffalo. Nolan also recently led Latvia to a strong showing at the Olympics in Sochi.
Prior to the game, the Isles signed defenseman Adam Pelech to an entry-level contract. Pelech was the team’s third-round draft pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.