Even though two different New York Islanders played their first games for the orange and blue–Josh Bailey and Lubomir Visnovsky–and the team was able to pull the score into a tie on two different occasions after starting the game playing from behind, it wasn’t enough and the Buffalo Sabres nabbed the 3-2 win.
The high-scoring Thomas Vanek struck first, scoring his 11th goal of the season. That’s a goal a game average, not to mention the dozen assists he has for the campaign so far. He earned that 12th helper last night, too, when helping Cody Ehrhoff break the first tie of the match. With this output, Vanek still leads the entire NHL in goals and points, plus he’s just one helper away from tying with Martin St. Louis.
But speaking of that first tie, it came from John Tavares, the alternate captain scoring his team-leading sixth goal of the campaign. He scored with a little less than a minute left in the first period, right about the time when Sabres fans–and maybe even some of the players–felt confident that they’d be heading to the locker room holding a 1-0 lead. That’s despite the fact that the Islanders were out-shooting the home team 15 to four.
Tavares would later hear that agonizing sound for any hockey player: the sickening sound of a goal pinging off the post, but not in that lucky way that sees it go right behind the other goalie. In fact, he heard that twice in the third period, the second time on a penalty shot. Despite those pings, his production has come around lately, though. All six of those goals of his have been scored in the past seven games.
In Visnovsky’s debut, he played about 20 minutes and had a +2 rating. Bailey had seven shots on goal and about 13 minutes of ice time. The Islanders had some more firsts for the night, too: Colin McDonald‘s first goal as a member of the team. McDonald, who spent most of his time last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ AHL farm team, scored on a helper from Casey Cizikas. Brian Strait, not to be confused with occasional d-partner Mark Streit, got the secondary assist and had his first two-assist game in his career.
So the game looked almost the same going into the second intermission, except knotted at two now.
Again the Islanders vastly out-shot the Sabres in the final period, but in the end it wasn’t enough and Alexander Sulzer‘s goal secured a win for the away team. Next for the Isles, who have now lost four in a row (though this loss was the closest, in regards to the score sheet, of this entire week gone by), is a visit from the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 12.