Hockey, go figure.
Coming off a very good performance that ended with a regulation loss, the Islanders spent the first two periods on Monday night unable to get pucks on the net. Their 3-2 win over the Sabres at Nassau Coliseum, which snapped a two-game losing streak, was neither pretty nor perfect.
But it yielded two points as the Islanders, starting a stretch of nine of their next 10 at home, including three more against the last-place Sabres, improved to 5-0-1 at the Coliseum.
"I felt like tonight the hockey gods were in our favor a little bit with a couple of posts that they hit," coach Barry Trotz said. "The other night [a 3-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday], I thought we should have had some points and we got nothing. Today, probably, we probably could’ve been beat, but we got points because of some timely goals and some timely saves."
Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored the winner on the power play at 15:08 of the third period, backhanding in the rebound of rookie Oliver Wahlstrom’s heavy slap shot from the top of the left circle.
Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves, keeping the Islanders close as they managed only 11 shots in the first two periods before finishing with 12 third-period shots.
"Trotz always talks about the biggest game is the one after a loss, and I thought we played a really good game in Pittsburgh; we probably deserved to win," said Matt Martin, who retrieved a loose puck in the offensive zone and beat Linus Ullmark with a wrist shot to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 3:01 of the third period.
"This one was that much bigger tonight. We got off to a slow start. Our resiliency was good and we battled through when we didn’t have our best."
"We were creating some chances but nothing was getting on net," added Anders Lee, whose backhander at the crease tied the score at 1 at 3:56 of the second period. "I kind of felt the frustration pick up a little bit. I thought we did a good job of battling through a little bit of a sloppy game at times."
The Sabres had taken a 1-0 lead as Curtis Lazar tipped defenseman Henri Jokiharju’s wrist shot from the right point at 17:15 of the first period.
Lee’s penalty for interference on Riley Sheahan away from the puck at 4:17 of the third period led to Sam Reinhart’s power-play goal at 5:48, as he swatted a rebound out of midair to tie the score at 2.
The Islanders could not hold a 2-1 lead in the third period of Saturday’s loss.
That dropped them to 4-6-2 on the road as they went 2-2-0 on their just-completed road trip, sweeping two games in Buffalo but losing twice in Pittsburgh.
The Islanders still were being outshot 16-5 at 14:12 of the second period. They had gone 19 minutes, 32 seconds without a shot between defenseman Andy Greene’s try at 4:12 of the first period and Mathew Barzal’s wrister at 3:44 of the second period after he exited the penalty box.
The Islanders finished with nine attempts blocked and 16 missed shots.
"It didn’t really feel like we were playing the game with only five shots," said Lee, who scored his team-leading eighth goal. "It definitely felt like more than that. You look up at the scoreboard and you’ve got to get a feel for the game rather than just looking at that low number with a lot of time left. Just stick with it and not get bogged down with a little thing like that."