The New York Islanders let another late lead get away and fell to the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in a shootout Tuesday night at the Nassau Coliseum. It was Buffalo’s first win of the season while the Islanders dropped their third consecutive contest. New York led 3-2 late in the third period but a goal by Marcus Foligno with 2:01 left in the third period tied the score before Tyler Ennis won it in the shootout for Buffalo.
Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin and Matt Moulson scored for the Islanders, who held leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 in this game and never trailed until the shootout winner gave the Sabres the victory.
“It’s tough. We had a lot of shots, we just didn’t capitalize on them or put them away,” admitted Martin. “It’s a little disappointing, these are games you have to have. We did get a point which is huge, but at the same time, we should have had two.”
There were some positive signs out there for the Islanders. The Isles had 44 shots on goal after managing only 35 total during their two game road trip in Chicago and Nashville over the weekend.
Coach Jack Capuano mixed up his lines throughout the game and many of the results were positive. Michael Grabner replaced Matt Moulson on the top line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo and Grabner managed five shots on goal in the first period alone and eight for the game.
Cal Clutterbuck also played well, registering eight hits to lead the Islanders and showing some of the form that encouraged GM Garth Snow to acquire him from the Minnesota Wild this past summer.
But defensive breakdowns cost the Islanders and for long stretches in this game, they played down to the level of their (winless) competition. The Islanders had trouble clearing their own zone at times and failed to finish some very good scoring chances.
After Moulson’s power play goal but the Isles ahead 3-2 at the 8:44 mark of the third period, the Islanders didn’t let up offensively and continued to play the same style that had them ahead, but the Sabres intercepted a late clearing attempt and Foligno scored on a shot from 10 feet inside the blue line that beat a screened Evgeni Nabokov to even the game at 3-3 with just 2:01 left in regulation time.
“When we have a lead, we have to bear down and find a way to get the job done,” Tavares said. “We have to understand it takes a full 60 minutes. We just haven’t sealed the door on teams when we really needed to.”
After the game, coach Jack Capuano tried to emphasize the positive to bolster the spirits of his club. “I thought we played a good hockey game. We worked hard,” Capuano said. “[It was] a little bit wide open for me, but the things and the details that we discussed this week, I thought our guys did very well…I can’t fault the work ethic tonight, I thought it was there.”
The Isles’ captain summed up the feeling in the locker room after the game. “It’s disappointing,” Tavares said. “It was another one we kind of let get away at the end.”
The Islanders look to bounce back when they return to action Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers at the Nassau Coliseum.
Official attendance was 10,512.
Prior to the game, the NHL suspended Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta for 10 games for a head shot on Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson last week.
Colin McDonald was out of the lineup with a hip injury. He is listed as day-to-day.
John Tavares won 8-of-10 faceoffs for the Islanders.
Buffalo outhit the Islanders 32-25. Mike Weber led the Sabres with six hits.