NEW YORK (AP) After further review, Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner was still convinced the Sabres got robbed.
Mathew Barzal scored 1:08 into overtime to give the New York Islanders a 3-2 victory over Buffalo on Wednesday night. But what drew Lehner’s ire was a stoppage in play with a half-minute left in regulation as the NHL replay staff in Toronto reviewed Josh Bailey’s shot 30 seconds prior.
Video showed the puck hit Lehner’s glove, which appeared to be slightly over the goal line. After a few minutes, referee TJ Luxmore announced Bailey’s goal was good, and the game was tied at 2.
”Toronto is predetermined,” Lehner said. ”How the league works, unfortunately.
”Everything is predetermined against us.”
Bailey set up Barzal’s game-winner, and Jason Chimera also scored for the Islanders. New York has won three of five to improve to 20-13-4.
Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo scored for last-place Buffalo (9-20-8), which has lost four of five.
”It’s a tough break,” Okposo said. ”We played a pretty good game. We had our chances. It was a tough outcome.”
New York entered ranked second in the NHL in goals per game (3.56) and total goals (128), while the Sabres were last in both categories (2.17 and 78).
Despite the significant statistical disparity between the teams, the game was, in essence, a goaltending duel as Jaroslav Halak stopped 34 shots for the Islanders, and Lehner made 33 saves for Buffalo. It marked the eighth time this season Lehner stopped at least 30 shots in a game.
”Two really good goalies going at it,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. ”Lehner was really good. He’s been playing good hockey lately.”
But it was Bailey who made the pivotal play, scoring his 11th goal on a snap shot with 1:09 left in regulation to tie it at 2. Bailey then set up Barzal, an early Calder Trophy contender for Rookie of the Year, for the game-winner.
Barzal jumped onto the ice for a line change and collected a pass from Bailey in the neutral zone before gaining speed into the offensive zone. Barzal split Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and center Ryan O’Reilly before snapping a shot that bounced past Lehner.
”I’m just elated that we got two points,” Weight said.
Halak’s most important save came two minutes into the third when he kept the game tied 1-all with a body stop on Jordan Nolan’s breakaway. Minutes later, though, he was beaten by former Islanders teammate Okposo to give Buffalo its first lead, 2-1, with his sixth of the season.
”It’s great for him to get some of those results,” Bailey said of Halak. ”He’s probably the key reason we win.”
By comparison, Lehner’s worknight started much earlier.
The teams went into the first intermission scoreless, although New York had a 14-11 advantage in shots on goal, most of which occurred in the opening eight minutes as the Islanders outshot the Sabres 10-1.
”It’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Bailey said. ”Sometimes you’re going to have two shots and two goals and sometimes you’re going to have 20 and no goals.”
New York and Buffalo continued trading chances early in the second. Casey Cizikas fired high and wide on a short-handed semi-breakaway 40 seconds into the period, and Halak stopped Okposo’s wraparound attempt 15 seconds later.
It took until the 3:41 mark of the second period for a goal to be scored, and it came from an unlikely source: Chimera. The veteran Islander followed linemate Cal Clutterbuck’s left-wing drive and pushed the rebound into the net for his second goal of the season, and first since Dec. 1.
”It’s awesome,” Cizikas said. ”He works hard out there. For him to get rewarded, it’s definitely big. It’s fun when he scores.”
Just more than six minutes later, Girgensons converted Jack Eichel’s behind-the-net feed for his third goal of the season.
NOTES: Buffalo outshot New York 36-33. The Sabres were 0 for 4 on the power play, and New York went 0 for 2. … The teams finish their three-game season series Feb. 8 in Buffalo. … New York D Calvin de Haan missed his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury, and LW Nikolay Kulemin sat out his 22nd straight game with an upper-body injury. … After missing two straight games, D Dennis Seidenberg dressed for New York. … D Ryan Pulock, RW Steve Bernier and C Alan Quine were scratched by the Islanders. … Buffalo scratched D Victor Antipin, D Josh Gorges and C Scott Wilson. … The announced attendance was 15,027.
Sabres: Continue their three-game New York City-area swing Friday night in New Jersey.
Islanders: Visit the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.
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