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Rapid Reaction: Islanders Beat Down Buffalo in First Game Back

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UBS Arena New York Islanders New Home

ELMONT, N.Y. — The New York Islanders defeated the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 4-1 on Thursday night. The win moves the Islanders to 9-12-6 on the season and 3-5-3 on UBS Arena ice this season.

How it Happened: 

Kieffer Bellows scored the eventual game-winner for the New York Islanders at 6:45 of the second period. After receiving a pass from defenseman Andy Greene in the defensive zone, he made one move around Buffalo forward Alex Tuch, another move around Buffalo defenseman Henri Jokiharju before he let the shot go to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.

The Islanders got on the board first Thursday as Mat Barzal scored his 10th of the season from Josh Bailey and Noah Dobson at 12:35 of the first period. Dobson jumped in on the rush before dishing the puck to Bailey at the top of the left circle. Bailey fed Barzal in the high-slot as he wired the puck glove-side of Buffalo goaltender Malcolm Subban.

Buffalo evened the score at one at 19:00 of the first period while on the power play. With Martin in the box for tripping, Buffalo forward Victor Oloffson took a hard wrister from inside the left circle. With forward Brett Murray in front, Varlamov could not track the rebound. A few wacks by Murray saw the puck slide to Varlamov’s left, where former Islander Kyle Okposo was waiting. He tapped in the rebound for his seventh goal of the campaign.

Following Bellows’ goal, Anders Lee gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion as he made it a 3-1 game at 11:25 of the second period. On the power play, Lee was able to find the loose puck in front of the crease, as on the backend, he lifted the puck past the glove of Subban. Bellows and Barzal each picked up their second points of the contest with the primary and secondary assists, respectively.

Noah Dobson gave the Islanders a 4-1 lead at 11:43 of the third period. His point-shot deflected off of Buffalo goaltender Subban’s stick and in. Josh Bailey and Mat Barzal picked up the assists.

Islanders netmidner Semyon Varlamov stopped 36 of 37 in the win, his second consecutive win.

Rust Who?

Many teams out of the holiday break had showcased a bit of rust as they got back into game form. And despite the Islanders going 10 days without a game due to postponements and the break, they looked strong in their return to game action. From the get-go, the Islanders controlled the offensive zone. The fourth line got the Islanders started with a solid shift and it carried over.

When defenseman jumped up on the rush, there was strong communication. Very rarely did the Islanders get caught out of position. The Islanders played their physical brand of hockey and only took one penalty, a tripping penalty by Martin. That penalty allowed Buffalo to tie the game with a minute to go in the first period. But besides a couple of mistakes, it was a rather clean game for the Islanders.

Although the Islanders’ top-line was dominant on offense, they were not the only line getting chances. The second line of Bellows-Pageau-Dal Colle had their chances, with Bellows scoring the go-ahead goal. The power play came through with Lee’s tally and Dobson provided offense from the blue line. 

The Islanders, once they established a lead, played their game until the final buzzer sounded.

Barzal Stays Red Hot

Mat Barzal has been out of the lineup since Dec. 11 against the New Jersey Devils but he looked in mid-season form Thursday night against Buffalo. With the opening tally of the contest, Barzal extended his point-streak to seven games.

Barzal added a goal and two assists in the win over Buffalo, as he now has two goals and ten assists over his last seven games.

Barzal’s skating ability created chances for his linemates all night long. On the Dobson tally late in the third, it was Barzal’s ability to create space that set up the tally.

Barzal ended the night with eight shots on goal.

Bellows Builds on Last Outing

Kieffer Bellows has not seen many minutes this season but over the last few games, he is making it count. After scoring late in the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights back on Dec. 19, Bellows picked up a goal and an assist in Thursday’s win.

His goal against Buffalo came on an individual effort that stemmed from the defensive zone.

It was a similar goal to the one he scored against Vegas, as he was patient before getting the puck on net.

Known for his goal-scoring ability, Bellows has learned how to contribute in other ways.

Bellows, who played alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Michael Dal Colle, had no problem finding them on the ice. In the first period, a partial spin-o-rama backhand pass was thrown right to Dal Colle, who was crashing the net but could not get his stick free.

In the second period, Bellows sent a puck across the Buffalo zone to Pageau, who got a decent scoring opportunity but was denied by Subban.
Bellows’ assist was not too shabby either as he faked a shot from inside the left circle before passing it to Lee in the crowded slot. While the pass did hit Lee in the skate, it was still deceptive enough to get the Buffalo defensemen to bite.

Quotables: Semyon Varlamov, Noah Dobson, Kieffer Bellows, and Barry Trotz addressed the media following Thursday’s win:

“We did have a long break. We had a couple of good practices with the team. It was a good break, just to get away from hockey, get rest mentally…Spent a lot of time with my family, had a great Christmas and I was trying to not think about hockey. Just try to relax and stay home with my family, so I thought that was really helpful. I feel great today, fresh. A lot of time to do workouts and stuff and we had a couple of good practices like I said. – Semyon Varlamov on the holiday break and getting back on the ice and playing hockey again.

“Just for myself, just trying to focus on playing my game. Obviously with a couple of guys out of the lineup, each and every night you got to step up. I think it just starts with playing hard in the d-zone and everything works off of that. Just playing with a lot of confidence right now and trying to be responsible defensively and offensively chip in when I can.”Noah Dobson on the confidence in his game.

“I’m feeling confident in my game right now and I’m feeling good out there. Just more patient with the puck, just having that extra split-second to make choices out there…I’m feeling good about my game. It comes from my linemates and coaches supporting me as well and everyone on the team supporting each other.” Kieffer Bellows on having success lately.

“I think Kieffer has been on a slow and steady burn where he’s taken on the challenges that we’ve given him…I watch some of the games last night with teams coming back. You could see certain teams hit walls. Some of the details, teams would lock into something. They fell off of it. I thought we were pretty decent for the most part.” – Barry Trotz on the play of Bellows and the overall play of his team following 10 days since their last game. 

Game Notes: Prior to the start of Thursday’s game, the Islanders announced that Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, Robin Salo, and Zach Parise were out of COVID-19 protocol. Sebastian Aho was placed in COVID-19 protocol. Forward Kyle Palmieri was placed on IR.

Up Next: The New York Islanders will host the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday at UBS Arena at 2 p.m.

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