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Nabokov, Islanders blank Sabres

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After surviving on the penalty kill, the New York Islanders pounced on the Buffalo Sabres and let Evegeni Nabokov do the rest.

A late second-period flurry and strong goaltending propelled the Islanders to a 4-0 win over the Sabres on Saturday night at the First Niagara Center.

Mark Streit, Michael Grabner, John Tavares and Colin McDonald scored for the Islanders (8-9-1). Nabokov made 35 saves for his 53rd career shutout.

The turning point came after the Sabres came up short on their fourth power play of the game late in the second period. With 2:09 remaining in the period, Matt Moulson connected with Streit on a pretty cross-ice pass and the Islanders captain made it 1-0.

New York took a 2-0 lead one minute later after a bad Sabres turnover. Buffalo's Christian Ehrhoff tried to send the puck from the left to right point inside the Islanders zone but was picked off by Grabner, who raced down the ice and scored on a breakaway.

"We weathered the storm and we were able to have Streit knock that first one in," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "It shows a lot of character on the team there. They didn't get frustrated."

Nabokov was outstanding in net for the Islanders, picking up his first shutout of the season. It also marked another first for the the 37-year-old veteran -- his first career shutout against the Sabres.

"It's funny how it works," Nabokov said. "You look the right way sometimes and you think that you're looking the right way and the puck's going the wrong way. And today every time I tried to look or even sometimes to kind of guess to where the puck was going to go, the puck was able to hit me."

Tavares added insurance for New York with his 12th goal of the season 4:24 into the third period and McDonald scored with 58 seconds remaining for his third goal of the season.

The Sabres (6-12-1) came up well short in their first home game under new interim coach Ron Rolston, who took over on Wednesday for former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. Buffalo was booed off the ice by the home crowd after the second period and the jeers continued throughout the third.

"We're playing well in stretches and have a mistake that takes you out of the game," Rolston said. "But you still have to score a goal. You're not going to win games if you're not scoring. So stretches of playing some decent hockey and mistakes that are costly."

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller had 28 saves in a losing effort.

"Not a very strong performance overall," Miller said. "Nothing else, man. We've sat here before and tried to hash things out. Until it's good enough, it's not good enough."

Miller was involved in a late scrum between the two teams when Matt Martin had the goalie in a partial headlock. The scrum came after there was some contact with Nabokov at the other end.

"I just thought a bump would be that, he didn't have to try and rip my head off," Miller said. "But that's hockey."

The Islanders, who also won on the road at Montreal on Thursday, hope that back-to-back road wins can give them a boost as they head into a critical stretch of the season. New York has a season-long seven-game home stretch next on the schedule, starting with Sunday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes -- but the Islanders have not had much success at home this season. New York is 6-3-1 on the road and only 2-6 at home.

"We hope so," Capuano said. "We've got a game tomorrow night; we have a homestand coming up. We haven't been good at home for whatever reason, but we have to play simple, we have to play disciplined and we have to take what we've done on the road and take it back in front of our fans."

Nabokov said, "We have no other choice, We have to. We have to play good in front of our fans and we have to keep getting points. That's a homestand that's going to be huge."

NOTES: Sabres defenseman Alexander Sulzer left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. The extent of the injury was not known after the game. ... Jordan Leopold, John Scott and T.J. Brennan were scratched for the Sabres. Radek Martinek, Eric Boulton and David Ullstrom were scratched for the Islanders. ... Sabres forward Ville Leino (hip) returned to the ice for the morning skate on Saturday. He had been out since Jan. 18. Leino's immediate status remains unknown, though he said he's feeling more optimistic regarding his injury. He has yet to play in a game for the Sabres this season. ... This was the second of three meetings between the teams this season. Buffalo defeated New York 3-2 in the first matchup on Feb. 9. ... This was the 152nd game all time between Buffalo and New York. Heading into Saturday night's game, Buffalo led the series 74-55-22.
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