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Sabres hold off Islanders for second straight win

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres' two-game winning streak is largely the result of Thomas Vanek's borderline miraculous last-second goal Thursday and a brilliant one-man effort by goalie Ryan Miller Saturday.

But the Sabres aren't complaining -- especially in a 48-game season in which a team can surge into or out of playoff contention in a matter of days.

Miller made 41 saves, including a stop of John Tavares' penalty shot with 3:53 left, and Alexander Sulzer's goal with 12:25 remaining in the third period snapped a tie and lifted the Sabres to a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

"Been able to win a couple different ways here lately," Miller said of the Sabres, who won a shootout over the Canadiens on Thursday after Vanek's goal in the crease forced overtime with 1.9 seconds left. "Hopefully it'll get prettier."

The Sabres (5-6-1) were outshot 43-15 but headed back home in a four-way tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference -- a notable feat for a team that had lost seven of eight before beating the Canadiens.

"You can't get too low on yourself (and) lose the confidence if you end up losing a couple," said defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who scored in the second period. "You've got to take every game, try to get the points. Today was an ugly one, but we got the points."

Said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff: "Every season you're going to have games like that. The good part was we stayed away from (allowing) the real high-quality stuff (by the Islanders)."

The Islanders (4-6-1), who began the day in a five-way tie for 10th with the Sabres, fell into a tie for 13th after losing their fourth straight. The Islanders were also 0-for-3 on the power play and haven't scored in their last 22 power plays.

"Our guys left everything they had on the ice tonight," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We just came up short."

Vanek and Ehrhoff gave the Sabres leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before Sulzer's slap shot sailed over the shoulder of Evgeni Nabokov and bounced over the red line as Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey dove at it in a frantic attempt to knock the puck out.

The Islanders, who never led despite their overwhelming shot advantage, had a golden chance to tie it for the third time with 3:53 left, but Tavares' penalty shot bounced off the right goal post. The shot was set up when Tavares was hooked from behind by Ehrhoff on a breakaway.

"I thought he jumped pretty early on that one," Miller said. "He made a nice move. I tried to take him as far as I could, push him outside."

"Ryan made the big saves when we needed them," Ruff said.

Tavares scored with 42 seconds left in the first for the Islanders while Colin McDonald's second career goal -- and his first since Nov. 28, 2009 -- knotted the game at 2-2 with 2:24 left in the second.

Nabokov made 12 saves for the Islanders.

Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who was suspended for the first 10 games while tending to a family matter in his native Slovakia, made his debut for New York and played 26 shifts, second most on the team. Islanders center Josh Bailey had a team-high seven shots in his season debut after missing the first 10 games with a knee injury.

NOTES: An announced crowd of 12,608 turned out at Nassau Coliseum less than 24 hours after a blizzard dumped as much as 33 inches of snow on Long Island. The Islanders have postponed just two games due to weather in their 40-season history -- both because of blizzards on Feb. 7, 1978 and March 13, 1993. ... As of faceoff Saturday night, the fate of the Sabres' home game Sunday against the Bruins was still uncertain. The Bruins-Lightning game in Boston was postponed Saturday because of the blizzard and Boston's Logan International Airport wasn't expected to open until 11 p.m. Saturday. ... The Islanders (1-3-0 at home entering Saturday) had just one win through their first four home games for only the third time in the last 12 seasons. ... Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers was among Buffalo's healthy scratches. Myers has a plus/minus of negative-9 through 11 games.
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