The New York Islanders got a goal from Casey Cizikas late in the third period to take a hard-fought win against the Buffalo Sabres. The Islanders had taken a two-goal lead in the first period, but the Sabres chipped away with goals from Jordan Greenway and Casey Mittelstadt. Sabres rookie Zach Benson picked up two assists – the first two points in this career – in the loss.
Both goaltenders – Ilya Sorokin for New York and Devon Levi for Buffalo – were excellent.
The Sabres went with the same lineup as they did for the season opening loss to the Rangers.
Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka – Dylan Cozens – Victor Olofsson
Jordan Greenway – Casey Mittelstadt – Zach Benson
Zemgus Girgensons – Peyton Krebs – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin – Mattias Samuelsson
Owen Power – Henri Jokiharju
Connor Clifton – Erik Johnson
Another poor first period
Peyton Krebs took an early penalty in the offensive zone, but the Sabres penalty kill was good, limiting the Islanders to only one scoring chance.
The Islanders opened the scoring at 5:57 when Pierre Engvall outmuscled Connor Clifton before feeding Brock Nelson, who beat Devon Levi with a wrist shot from the circle.
The Sabres couldn’t do much offensively through most of the period as the Islanders used their 1-3-1 trap system well. Whenever Buffalo did have possession in the offensive zone, there always seemed to be an Islander in the passing/shooting lane.
The Islanders doubled their lead at 18:18. Jeff Skinner lost the puck at the blueline and the Sabres never regained possession. Levi made the initial save off of Ryan Pulock and Nelson banked the rebound off of Kyle Palmieri and then Clifton. Palmieri got credit for the goal.
Shots were 7-7 in the period.
Good start to the second
Jordon Greenway cut the lead to 2-1 on a nice backhand goal at 4:15. Zach Benson – who picked up his first NHL point on the play – carried the puck over the blueline, feathered a pass to Casey Mittelstadt, who fed it across to Greenway. It looked like Greenway was going to one-time it on net, but instead deked to his backhand and put it past a sliding Ilya Sorokin.
The Greenway goal seemed to wake the team up; they had more possession time and generated more scoring opportunities. The Sabres dominated most of the second period but couldn’t put another puck past Sorokin.
This was by far the best period the Sabres have played this season. Shots were 14-10 Buffalo in the period.
Hard fought third
The Islanders started the period strong, creating several chances but Levi stood tall in the Sabres net.
Casey Mittelstadt tied the game up at 2:34 when he picked up the loose puck along the goal line, move to the front of the net and backhanded a shot past Sorokin. Benson and Dahlin picked up the assists.
Following Mittelstadt’s goal, the Islanders dominated. But Levi was excellent, keeping his team in the game.
The Islanders took the lead at 13:40 when Casey Cizikas deflected the puck past Levi. The goalie immediately said it was a high stick, but then Don Granato challenged for an offside. The refs deemed it a good goal though. In my opinion, it was the right call.
The Sabres pulled Levi with about 30 seconds to play but weren’t able to tie the game.
Final score 3-2 New York. Third period shots were 12-7 New York and 29-28 for them for the game.
This was a MUCH better performance from the Sabres than we saw on opening night. While they didn’t look hungry in the first period, they were much stronger in the second period after Greenway’s goal. They fought hard in the third, especially after the Islanders dominated following Mittelstadt’s goal. The effort was there tonight; they just didn’t get the result.
I thought the Mittelstadt line – with Greenway and Benson – was excellent and clearly the team’s best again tonight. That’s great, but also a big problem. That’s supposed to be Buffalo’s third line. The Thompson line still hasn’t created anything and while the Cozens line created a few chances, I feel they’re defensively liable with Olofsson on the line. Cozens, Peterka and Olofsson were each -2 tonight. If I were coach, I think I’d try sitting Olofsson, moving Krens up to the Cozens line and bring Jost in to play on the fourth line.
Connor Clifton struggled in tonight’s game. He was directly involved in the Islanders’ two goals in the first period, almost coughed up the puck when he was the last man back in the Sabres zone in the third period and was on the ice for the winning goal. That means he was -3 for the night. He was good in Boston last year, so I’m sure what we’re seeing is early-season rust.
Devon Levi looked much better tonight in the net. He made some huge saves, especially when the Islanders were pressing in the third period. The Sabres have three home games next week; I’m guessing Levi will get two of those starts.
The Sabres next game is at home on Tuesday, October 17 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.