UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have the worst home record in the NHL with just 29 points in 35 games and had lost nine of their last 10 home games.
Fortunately for the Islanders, they were facing the Buffalo Sabres, the team with the worst record in the NHL, on Saturday night.
Goals from right wingers Kyle Okposo and Cal Clutterbuck and centers Frans Nielsen and Ryan Strome allowed the Islanders to taste some home success in a 4-1 victory over the Sabres.
Buffalo (19-40-8) lost its fifth straight game. The Sabres have 46 points in 67 games.
"It's the same mistakes over and over," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "For some reason, we peel away. ... We need some other people to contribute once in a while."
In a game with two teams that are building for the future, nine rookies were dressed. The Islanders (26-34-9) started seven and the Sabres sported two on a team that has scored the fewest goals in the league at 1.89 per game.
"I thought the kids played very well," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "You know you have to teach young players how to play without the puck and that's what we're concentrating on and teach them."
The Sabres' lack of offensive cohesiveness was in full effect on special teams, going 1-for-6 on the power play while taking on an Islanders squad that has given up more goals than any other team.
"I like the way we defended," Capuano said. "I'm not going to sit here and talk about chances, but our guys worked really hard."
Nielsen put the Islanders ahead 3 1/2 minutes into the game after a handful of Sabres chances when his slap shot from the left circle snuck under the arm of Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth. It was the Islanders' second shot of the game.
"We had a good start and my line played well tonight," Okposo said. "We had a tough matchup and they're a fast team. So we played well."
As the Islanders' penalty kill stymied three man-advantage opportunities for the Sabres in the first period, New York's first power play found success with 2:30 left in the period. Okposo was the beneficiary of some quick passing. He got a look 10 feet in front of goal, slotting a low shot past Enroth's left post and in. It was Okposo's 27th goal of the season.
"We're shooting pucks and making some plays," Okposo said. "We were moving the puck real well tonight and I found the back of the net once. It was a big goal."
The Islanders dominated possession and chances in the second period, but the tilted time on the puck did not result in a goal or even an overwhelming advantage of shots on goal (14-10).
Entering the third period trailing, the Sabres are 2-32-4 this season, but center Tyler Ennis pulled one back 56 seconds into the third when he stuffed a spinning shot into the right side of Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson's net. Nilsson finished with 33 saves.
"It was better. I thought we had some chances," Nolan said. "The killer for us was getting that first goal and in the next shift, we didn't make a very smart play."
The Islanders quickly regained their two-goal lead less than a minute later after Ennis' score when left winger Matt Martin sent Strome in alone on Enroth, who made 34 saves. The rookie's breakaway was initially stopped by the right pad of Enroth, but Strome shoved in the rebound for his fourth goal of the season.
"I was just trying to get a quick shot off, I like to go five-hole," Strome said. "I stopped in front of the net. I was lucky that I got a rebound."
For a team that has struggled holding third-period leads, the Islanders found some relief from the Strome goal.
"That was a huge goal by Strome to put us back to a two-goal lead," Okposo said. "And we didn't look back from there."
Clutterbuck added a bouncing, back-handed empty-netter with just over two minutes left to put the game away.
NOTES: The Sabres lost five of their last six games. The Islanders dropped five of their last seven. These are two of the bottom four teams in the NHL. ... The Islanders are 9-17-8 (29 points) at home this season. That is the worst home record for any team in the league and the team's worst home output since 2000-01 (26 points). ... Sabres G Michael Neuvirth stopped a career-high 51 shots in a 4-2 loss to Carolina on Thursday night. ... Islanders C Anders Lee is enjoying his time in the NHL since his call-up from the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Coming into Saturday night, he has nine points in his first eight games
By Joe Pantorno, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: March 15, 2014 11:10:56 PM
Islanders cook up home win over Sabres
|All Times Eastern|