UNIONDALE, N.Y. — When the New York Islanders needed it the most their power play came up in the clutch.
With under five minutes to play and the game tied at two, the Islanders’ power play cashed in to help lead New York to a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres and snap a two-game losing streak. It was Jean-Gabriel Pageau who came up with the game-winning goal on Monday night.
The Islanders’ third line centerman buried a rebound off a shot from Oliver Wahlstrom that was initially saved, but Pageau was in the right spot to backhand the puck past Linus Ullmark.
— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) February 23, 2021
“I think that was a big part of it was getting pucks to the net,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “That power play is getting pucks to the net, keeping it pretty simple and getting second looks. We had Nelly and Pager at the net and were able to get a huge goal there, especially against Buffalo.”
The win moved the Islanders past the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins and tied New York with the Washington Capitals at 21 points in the East Division standings. Monday was just the second time the Islanders have won a game this season after allowing the first goal.
Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves in his 14th start of the year.
“He held us in the game at key moments,” Matt Martin said about Varlamov. “(He) made some big saves, and we were able to pull through.”
Monday’s win almost seemed like a makeup victory for the way the Islanders had played on Saturday. New York had played a solid game against Pittsburgh, but allowed a third-period lead to slip away and fell for the second straight game against their division rivals from the Steel City.
On Monday, the Islanders didn’t have their best effort and again saw a lead in the final frame disappear. This time. however, they managed to take advantage of a golden opportunity late in the game.
“It was very important. Trotz always talks about the biggest game is the one after a loss,” Martin said. “I thought we played a really good game in Pittsburgh. Probably deserved to win. Would win if you play like that most nights, but those things happen. This one was that much bigger tonight, so we got off to a slow start and they obviously got the lead.
“Our resiliency was good and we battled through when we didn’t have our best.”
Buffalo took advantage of the lopsided first period by scoring on their 12th shot of the opening frame. Henri Jokiharju fired a wrist shot from the point and Curtis Lazar was able to deflect the shot by Varlamov for the goal with 2:45 left in the first.
The Islanders’ better effort in the second period paid off less than five minutes in. After Ryan Pulock held the puck at the blue line, he flung a shot towards the net that hit off Jordan Eberle and went right to Lee.
Lee was able to stickhandle the puck in front of the net and then backhand a shot past Ullmark for his team-leading eighth goal of the season.
That's our Captain 👏 pic.twitter.com/0BUd1iFqhs
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 23, 2021
Another early goal, this time in the third period, gave the Islanders a brief lead. Martin was able to pick up a loose puck near the slot and fired it by a screened Ullmark to put the Isles up 2-1 at 3:01 of the third.
The lead wouldn’t last that long after the Islanders took a penalty just over a minute after the go-ahead goal. Buffalo swarmed the Islanders on the ensuing power play and eventually, Sam Reinhart found paydirt, knocking the puck out of midair to even the score at two.
The way the game was going, we were creating some chances but nothing was getting on net,” Lee said. “We felt the frustration pick up a little bit. When that happens, you have to find a way to stay positive.”
The win was the first in a stretch that will see the Islanders play nine of 10 games at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders are 5-0-1 at home this season.