The Islanders’ two wins this week could not have been more different.
After hanging on by a thread to win on Tuesday night in Boston, they delivered a dominant performance Friday night, defeating the Sabres, 5-1, at Barclays Center. Anthony Beauvillier, Ryan Strome, John Tavares, Andrew Ladd and Calvin de Haan scored for the Isles.
“It was one of the more complete games we played,” Jack Capuano said of his team’s effort, which followed Tuesday night’s 4-2 win in Boston in which the Islanders were outshot 50-29. On Friday, they outshot the Sabres 32-29.
“There’s no secret to how we need to play,” Strome said. “When we play the way we want, we’re usually involved in the game or winning the game, so we need to have those complete efforts for 60 minutes, and hopefully a little bit of a roll after the break.”
Beauvillier got things started in the first period when he tipped in Travis Hamonic’s shot with 7:55 left. Strome scored with 5:24 left in the second period, poking in his own rebound after Sabres goalie Anders Nilsson made the initial save. Tavares scored on the power play with 39 seconds left, getting the puck past a crowd in front to beat Nilsson.
The goal capped a strong second period for the Islanders (13-14-6), who outshot Buffalo 16-9 in the period. They had a 27-17 edge in total attempts.
“When we get contributions from different guys, we’re successful,” Strome said. “We’ve kind of had a steady flow in our lineups for the last couple of games. We’re starting to get a little chemistry.”
Third periods have been unkind to the Islanders this season, but that was not the case Friday night. Ladd blasted a shot past Nilsson from just inside the face-off circle to make it 4-0 at the 5:35 mark. Then de Haan scored on an assist from Alan Quine, who split two defenders.
Of his team’s play in the third period, Capuano said, “We want to stay in attack mode, we want to continue to push the pace, we still want our ‘D’ pinching. We still want to do the things we did in the first two periods and we don’t want to sit back.”
Said Strome, “We just played with a mindset that it’s a zero-zero game. We came on hard, had a lot of scoring chances in the third and it was nice to keep the pressure on.”
Ladd said the Islanders, who had been outscored 13-1 in their last six third periods, “did a good job of staying on our toes. We didn’t sit back and we tried to create some chances and it worked out well.”
Thomas Greiss, making his second consecutive start after stopping 48 shots against Boston, had considerably less to do against the Sabres, turning aside 28 of the 29 shots he faced. Zemgus Girgensons scored for Buffalo (12-13-8) with 1:03 left in the game to deny Greiss his first shutout of the season.
“It was a great defensive game,” Greiss said. “We played hard, harder than them, and kept them out of the scoring areas and kept them away from second pucks.”
The win sent the Islanders into the three-day Christmas break on a high note.
“Our guys have worked,” Capuano said. “I know our record isn’t where we’d like it to be, but I can’t fault guys for the efforts we’ve had.”