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Sabres force OT, earn first win in shootout

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Marcus Foligno wasn't born the first time the Buffalo Sabres made the playoffs after beginning the season with a seven-game winless streak. He was eight years old the second time it happened.

No matter. On Tuesday night, Foligno was more than willing to believe that relatively ancient history could repeat itself for the Sabres.

Foligno's goal with 2:01 left in regulation forced overtime and Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout as the Sabres earned their first win of the season by edging the New York Islanders 4-3 at Nassau Coliseum.

Vanek and Ennis also scored in regulation for the Sabres (1-6-1), who scored more than two goals for the first time this season and avoided the worst start in franchise history.

Now begins the task of following in the footsteps of a pair of pre-shootout era teams -- the 1990-91 Sabres, who started 0-4-3, and the 1999-00 team, which opened 0-5-2 -- that reached the playoffs despite poor starts.

"We'll take any positive old stat we can think of right now," the 22-year-old Foligno said with a laugh. "Hopefully history repeats itself. We'd love to be in the playoffs. That's what we're aiming for."

This slow start has already put the Sabres in quite a hole. Only two Eastern Conference teams -- the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers -- have fewer points than the Sabres, who never led in regulation Tuesday and have enjoyed a lead for just nine minutes and 35 seconds this season.

"We had to start somewhere," said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who had 41 saves in regulation and overtime and two more in the shootout. "It's important we start sooner than later. It was starting to get about a 10th of the way through the season here without real points to show for it."

The Sabres seemed destined for a familiar defeat when Matt Moulson's power play goal 8:44 into the third period gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead as well as a burst of momentum. Moulson scored less than a minute after every New York skater on the ice raced to the aid of captain John Tavares after a helmetless Tavares was taken down from behind by the Sabres' Steve Ott.

But the Sabres, playing their third game in four nights, killed another penalty less than two minutes later and tied the score in stunning fashion when Foligno's shot threaded a pair of Islanders defensemen and snuck past goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

"We kind of took momentum their way and just slowly started chipping away," Foligno said. "I thought the whole night we just kind of worked it, worked it, and we got credit for it late in the third."

The Islanders took a quick lead in the shootout when Moulson beat Miller, but Vanek and Ennis scored and Miller stopped Nielsen and Tavares. The Sabres leaped over the boards and mobbed Miller after Tavares' shot glanced harmlessly off Miller's kneepads.

The shootout capped an entertaining game that had a little bit of everything, including 78 shots on goal, 13 penalties, three ties, one fight and numerous skirmishes.

"For our guys to be able to bounce back after our loss (to Minnesota) last night at home -- and really, (at) the tail end of a three in four -- was big for us," Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. "The energy tonight, I thought, was there all the way through the third, which was good. We were able to find a way to get that tying goal."

Nielsen and Matt Martin also scored for the Islanders (2-2-2), who opened a four-game homestand by losing their third straight and blowing a third period lead at home for the second time in three games at the Coliseum. Columbus came back from a 2-0 deficit to edge the Islanders in the shootout in the home opener Oct. 5.

"We put a lot of pucks on net today and didn't get the result we wanted," Tavares said. "When we have a lead, we've got to bear down and we've got to find a way to get the job done."

Nabokov had 31 saves.

NOTES: Sabres C Zemgus Girgensons left with a little more than two minutes left in the first when he was hit in the face by a puck fired by teammate Tyler Myers. Girgensons, bleeding profusely, skated off on his own as he held a towel to his head. ... Sabres RW Patrick Kaleta was suspended 10 games for delivering an illegal check to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets D Jack Johnson last Thursday. Kaleta, who was suspended five games for an illegal hit last year and is considered a repeat offender by the NHL, met Tuesday afternoon with NHL director of player safety Brendan Shanahan. Tuesday night marked Game 3 of the suspension, as he sat out pending the appeal. ... The Islanders scratched D Matt Donovan, RW Colin McDonald and C Brock Nelson. The Sabres scratched Kaleta, C Mikhail Grigorenko and D Jamie McBain. ... The Islanders have five homestands of four games or longer this season, though the final game in a four-game set from Jan. 23-Jan. 29 will be played against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium. Their five consecutive home games from Feb. 6 through March 2 include the 19-day Olympic break.
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