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Montoya plays stopper in Isles' win

New York Islanders' Brian Rolston (11) celebrates his

New York Islanders' Brian Rolston (11) celebrates his game-winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period. (Nov. 29, 2011) Credit: AP

BUFFAL0 -- They are learning, all the way from the coach on down.

The Islanders are learning to win games when things don't go completely their way and, for a second straight game, when the opponent came back to tie early in the third.

And Jack Capuano may have learned that the Islanders do indeed have a No. 1 goaltender.

Al Montoya made four huge saves during a 94-second, two-man advantage for the Sabres in the third period, and the Islanders held on for a 2-1 win at the First Niagara Center, their second straight win on the road after going 0-5-2 in their first seven away from the Coliseum.

"Our goaltender was our best player tonight, and if our goaltender is our best player every night we're going to win a lot of games," said Brian Rolston, who pounced on a loose puck and swept a backhand past Jhonas Enroth with 10:37 to play to restore the Isles' lead. "Al was phenomenal tonight."

The only blemish for Montoya, who finished with 30 saves, was Jochen Hecht's goal 1:54 into the third. But as they did on Saturday in Newark -- and as they had not done in previous games -- the Islanders did not freeze when they lost the lead in the third.

In fact, they were the aggressors. Kyle Okposo and John Tavares each hit goal posts and Rolston nearly jammed home a rebound 10 seconds before rookie David Ullstrom and Josh Bailey did the dirty work behind the Sabres' goal to get the puck into the crease.

"We were buzzing, we were just buzzing," Montoya said. "We're showing we can win those type of games and we're showing we can be consistent in any situation."

The same is true for Montoya, who made his Islanders debut in this building on Feb. 13, a few days after he was plucked off the minor-league scrap heap by the desperate Islanders. He came on in relief of Mikko Koskinen and earned a 7-6 overtime win that day.

Since then, he has established himself as the most reliable of the team's numerous goaltenders, running his record to 13-8-6 since that first game in February, with a 2.29 goals-against average.

He was never more important than last night, holding tight to the lead provided by Matt Moulson's power-play deflection 6:47 into the first and again after Rolston gave the Isles the lead once more.

Once Bailey went to the box for kneeing with 1:34 still left on Mark Streit's hooking penalty and just 8:52 remaining in the third, Montoya seized control.

He stopped Thomas Vanek from the doorstep and then got his glove on two wide-open tries by Derek Roy. Montoya stopped Jason Pominville from the right circle as the two-man power play expired, and then got a bit of luck late as Ville Leino whiffed on a cross-ice pass with 1:43 to play.

"Al gave us a chance and we showed some desperation there," said Capuano, whose team blocked a season-high 19 shots, including two by Travis Hamonic at the start of the five-on-three. "I think we've played with a little bit of an attitude that we maybe didn't have the first couple weeks of the season."

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