BUFFALO — They’ve earned their nine straight victories in different ways and with different standout players, though typically with solid goaltending and defense. But several Islanders cited one constant in the success.
“I think there’s just a commitment from everyone,” said Derick Brassard, whose first-period goal stood up in the Islanders’ 1-0 win over the Sabres on Saturday night at KeyBank Center. “There’s not one guy that’s not committed to play the way we want to.
“I feel like there’s a lot of guys on this team that are not on the scoresheet but they’re so effective in every way by being hard to play against. When you’re playing the way we are right now, teams don’t like that. We’re going to make you pay a certain price to score some goals.”
The Islanders (10-3-0) tied their longest single-season winning streak since Dec. 31, 1989 to Jan. 19, 1990. They’ll go for a perfect 10 when they face the Senators on Tuesday night at Barclays Center, their first game in Brooklyn this season.
The franchise record is a 15-game winning streak from Jan. 21 to Feb. 20, 1982.
Semyon Varlamov (27 saves) earned his first shutout with the Islanders and the team’s first of the season. It was the 26th shutout of his career.
Carter Hutton stopped 20 shots for the Sabres (9-4-2).
“It feels amazing,” Varlamov said. “I’ll tell you one thing, to win is a lot of fun. Let’s keep winning. The team battled all game. It wasn’t an easy one . . .
“It’s always fun to get a shutout, especially with a new team. But it’s already November. The team is playing the right way and we keep winning.”
“I think it’s just commitment,” defenseman Devon Toews said. “The first few games, it feels like we were working on it and it wasn’t quite there for us. We were just a little bit off, missing the odd details. The first few wins, maybe we could’ve lost those games, but our structure and our commitment to our structure was so good.”
The Sabres’ power play was ranked third in the NHL, but the Islanders killed off all three of their man advantages, allowing a total of three shots. The Islanders were credited with 14 blocked shots and clogged up the shooting lanes well enough for the Sabres to miss the net on 17 additional attempts.
Brassard, a former Ranger, set a career high by scoring for the fifth straight game, banking the puck off Hutton’s leg from behind the crease at 5:19 of the first period.
“Everybody is playing for each other,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Make it hard on whoever you play. Play the way we need to play against the team we’re playing because everybody is different. Understand the situation and be fully committed to doing your job well. They know they have to rely on each other and they do.”
Varlamov stopped all 10 shots he faced in the second period, kicking out his right pad to stop former Ranger Jimmy Vesey from low in the slot at 9:16.
He also received plenty of help. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk absorbed Jeff Skinner’s shot in the slot at 13:21 of the second period and Mathew Barzal used his stick to frustrate Skinner on another opportunity from the slot on that same shift. Josh Bailey also swept the puck away from the crease in the second period.