Miller, Sabres steal one on the Island
by Christian Arnold/Correspondent
The Islanders outshot, outplayed and outworked Buffalo, but they still couldn’t find a way to win on Saturday Night.
They fell 3-2 to the Sabres, who in all actuality had no business wining the game. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller was the real reason why they pulled out the victory, stopping 41 of the 43 shots he faced. His teammates only got 15 on Islander starter Evgeni Nabokov.
“We deserved better tonight, there is no question,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “Right now it just doesn’t feel like anything is going our way… I thought the effort for 60 minutes was there tonight. I thought Miller made some big saves when he had to and it was a difference in the game.”
The Islanders weren’t short on chances, as evidenced by the shots on goal and 82 attempted shots, and weren’t short on time with the puck. Much of the game was played in Buffalo’s end with the Islanders controlling the play.
But it was the little mistakes that cost the Islanders. The defensive breakdowns in front of the net, missed coverage, or just an unlucky bounce. Their losing streak is now at four games.
Thomas Vanek would open up the scoring at 9:11 in the first period and give the Sabres the 1-0 lead. A loose puck in front of the net led to a scramble and the Islanders couldn’t clear it. After a couple of whacks, Vanek put it past a diving Nabokov.
Up until that point it had been the Islanders game, but they would get the goal back in the final minute of the period. With 41.1 seconds left, John Tavares slammed home a rebound past Miller to tie the game at one.
Buffalo regained control of the lead in in the second period during 4-on-4 play. Christian Ehrhoff was able to get in front of the Islanders defense and put one past Nabokov to make it 2-1.
But the Islanders again responded late in the period. Colin McDonald scored his first goal as an Islander to tie the game at two.
Again though, the Sabres found a way to score and, again, took the lead. Alexander Sulzer got the goal after his shot hit Nabokov’s shoulder but still bounced in.
The Islanders had opportunites to tie the game for a third time, most notably a late game penalty shot awarded to Tavares, but they just couldn’t find a way to get the puck in the net.
“I just didn’t put it in,” Tavares said of the penalty shot chance. “I mean I had it and I hit the post. It’s plain and simple. I got the room that I needed and just not enough.”
Tavares was one of several Islanders who had chances, but just couldn’t get the puck in.
“I think I had three posts and a bunch of other opportunities,” he said. “Sometimes it’s bad luck, but I think as many opportunities as we had we have to put them in when we can.”
The loss now puts the Isles in a precarious situation. While the season may not be over for them, they are running out of room for error. In the 48-game season, a four-game losing streak hurts any team’s playoff chances. Finding a way to halt the skid is imperative.