Matt Martin nets two goals as Islanders top Sabres, 5-2

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Matt Martin fist bumps with teammates
Matt Martin fist bumps with teammates

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Matt Martin scored twice and the New York Islanders beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 on Thursday night in the opener of a three-game series.

Noah Dobson, Anthony Beauvillier and Jordan Eberle also scored for New York, and rookie Ilya Sorokin stopped 16 shots. The Islanders improved to 5-0-1 in their last six overall and 8-0-2 at the Nassau Coliseum to remain the only team without a regulation loss at home.

Taylor Hall and Rasmus Ristolainen scored for Buffalo, which has lost five straight (0-5-1). The Sabres are 2-8-1 since taking a two-week break for a COVID outbreak.

Jonas Johansson, making his second start of the season with starter Linus Ullmark injured, finished with a career-high 40 saves.

The teams continue the series with afternoon games at the Coliseum on Saturday and Sunday.

Sorokin, coming off 20-save shutouts in his previous two games, had six saves in the first period, four in the second and six in the third to improve to 3-2-1.

With Buffalo trailing 3-1, Jeff Skinner hit a goal post from the left circle in the opening minute of the third.

Eberle then put the Islanders ahead 4-1 as he scored on a rebound of a shot by Anders Lee at 3:14, beating Johansson on the glove side.

Ristolainen pulled the Sabres back within two at 7:23. With the Sabres on a 4-on-3 advantage, Ristolainen jammed in the rebound of a shot by Jack Eichel for his third.

Martin got his second of the night and fourth of the season as he converted the rebound of his own shot from the right doorstep with 5:32 left. It was Martin’s third career two-goal game, and first since March 25, 2014, at Carolina.

It sealed the Islanders’ seventh straight win against the Sabres, including four this season.

Hall got the Sabres on the scoreboard at 3:08 of the second. Sorokin made a save on Cody Eakin’s shot from the left side, but Hall put in the rebound from the right side to make it 2-1.

Beauvillier restored the Islanders’ two-goal lead on a breakaway with 5:02 left in the middle period. Beauvillier, playing in his 300th career game, got a pass from Brock Nelson, sped ahead of Ristolainen and skated in and beat Johansson for his second.

The Islanders outshot the Sabres 18-6 while scoring twice in a dominant first period.

Dobson put the Islanders up 1-0 as he got a pass from Eberle in the middle and fired a shot past Johansson’s blocker for his second with 9:25 left.

Martin doubled New York’s lead on a fortuitous deflection as he sent the puck from the left corner beyond the goal line off Johansson’s mask and in with 3:39 left.

FINISHING STRONG

The Islanders are outscoring opponents 26-13 in the third period this season for a league-best plus-13 margin in the period. New York has a 17-5 margin in the third at home.

SCORING DROUGHT

Hall’s goal early in the second was only his second of the season and first since Buffalo’s season-opener against Washington on Jan. 14. He got the Sabres’ first goal of the season in his first game with the team after signing a one-year, $8 million deal in the offseason.

THREE IN A ROW

This is the second time in franchise history the Islanders are facing the same opponent in three straight games. New York previously did it March 4-10, 2012, against New Jersey. The Islanders will do it three more times this season: March 11-14 against New Jersey, March 18-22 against Philadelphia and April 22-27 against Washington. This is the only time all the games are in the same arena.

The Sabres are playing three straight against the same team in the same season for the first time.