Ilya Sorokin finally got his first career win in the NHL and the Islanders defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 to complete the series sweep in upstate New York.
Early goals from Anders Lee and Jean-Gabriel Pageau put the Islanders in the driver’s seat early on Tuesday night and Sorokin fended off Buffalo with a 20 save performance. Sorokin is the first Islanders netminder to record his first NHL win with a shutout since Anders Nilsson did so on March 4, 2012, against the New Jersey Devils.
Tuesday was the first time that Sorokin had been in net when the Islanders were playing with a lead.
“It’s good for me to get my first win,” Sorokin said. “It’s better when you start 2-0. It’s better for your feelings.”
The victory helped vault the Islanders into second in the East Division with 20 points through 15 games. They are two points back of the division-leading Boston Bruins.
Sorokin made his fourth career NHL start on Tuesday, which featured several impressive stops in the final frame. Sorokin made a sweeping glove save on a shot by Victor Olofsson in the middle of the third and then later made an acrobatic stop on a backdoor chance by Sam Reinhart.
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“He deserves (the win),” Pageau said. “He’s been very good every game he’s played for use and we haven’t in front of him. Tonight I thought he was outstanding. He made some huge saves when we needed it. Guys were sacrificing their bodies tonight trying to protect that lead and on the (penalty kill) your best PKer is your goalie. He was outstanding all night.
“We’re all pumped for him.”
Mathew Barzal was held off the score sheet for the first time in nine games and had his nine-game point streak ended. Pageau extended his goal streak to five games in the win with his sixth goal of the season
While the New York Islanders got off to a good start against Buffalo, they didn’t make the win very easy on themselves or their rookie goaltender. Buffalo controlled most of the play for the second half of the first period and most of the second and third periods.
Despite the Islanders’ effort, Buffalo struggled to capitalize, which included a 90-second sequence where play stayed in the Islanders zone during the second period. Buffalo did not register a shot there and only had three shots on net in all of the second.
“We had that one long shift in the second period,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Sometimes you have to have some protocols in place to defend and we did. That usually comes with some commitment, but if you can defend fairly well it becomes a little bit of a security blanket when all hell breaks loose like it did in the second period there during that shift.”
The Islanders’ first goal of the night came 4:43 into the game. Noah Dobson took the puck into the offensive zone along far wall and then fed Lee for the tap-in goal as he skated on the nears side.
El Capitan puts us in front 1-0 💪💪 pic.twitter.com/YMPrOHjWeG
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Pageau gave the New York Islanders a two-goal advantage at 11:58 of the period. Ryan Pulock sprung Pageau with a pass from their own end and Pageau roofed the puck past the glove of Carter Hutton.
Buffalo looked as though they might have spoiled the shutout after Adam Pelech took a slashing penalty at 12:24 of the third. Victor Olofsson was able to beat Sorokin on the ensuing power play, but after the Islanders challenged it was ruled that the play was offside.
“I think we were pretty confident that it was going to come back,” Dobson said about the challenge. “Happy it worked out that way and we were able to kill it off.”
Lee capped off the night with an empty-net goal for his seventh of the season and surpassed Jordan Eberle, Barzal and Pageau for the team lead in goals.