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Afinogenov scores winner for Buffalo in 2-1 win over Islanders

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - There were no on-ice signs that the New York Islanders missed Chris Simon.

They played with energy, focus, drive, and made it a very busy night for Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller. They just couldn't score enough, which isn't Simon's job anyway.

Maxim Afinogenov scored with 2:17 left in the third period, just as Buffalo's sixth power play ended, and Miller made 42 saves to lift the Sabres to a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

New York even out-hit the Sabres 25-10, despite the loss of Simon, who earlier in the day was handed a 30-game suspension, a league record for an on-ice incident. The Islanders' lone goal was scored by their resident hardest-hitter Brendan Witt, who tied the game in the third period with his first goal in nearly a year.

"We did everything but score," Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. "We have the hard work part down, but it's still a loss."

For the second time in nine months, Simon received an NHL-record suspension. This time he was banished following his slew foot and skate stomp against Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu in New York's 3-2 home loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Simon, already granted a leave by the Islanders on Monday so he could seek counselling, isn't eligible to return from his eighth NHL suspension until Feb. 21. He was suspended 25 games in March, a penalty that carried over to the first five games of this season

"That's what the league felt he deserved so we have to live by that, and we will," Guerin said.

Dealing with their seventh loss in eight games (1-6-1), despite a 43-17 shots advantage was also tough to take.

After five failed Buffalo advantages, Afinogenov took a cross-zone pass from Brian Campbell in the right circle. With a knee down on the dot, Afinogenov got just enough of the puck to send it past the right arm of Rick DiPietro.

That helped Buffalo win its fourth straight. Derek Roy also scored for the Sabres, who split the four-game series after losing twice to the Islanders in the first two games of the season.

It took a rare goal from Witt on New York's 30th shot for the Islanders to tie it at 3:50 of the third period.

Fellow defenceman Radek Martinek made a fine play to keep the puck in the Buffalo zone at the right point and moved it over to Witt. He wound up above the left circle, sending a shot through a jumping screen by Sean Bergenheim for his first goal in 71 games, dating to Jan. 9 against the New York Rangers.

"You get a few shots, and you start to feel more comfortable out there," Miller said. "The goal that got by, I was putting up my glove in a defensive position, and I didn't see the puck until it was too late."

DiPietro kept it tied shortly after the Islanders' fourth failed power play of the night when he stretched out to block Thomas Vanek's spinning back-hander with his left pad.

Buffalo entered with the NHL's seventh-best power play, but lost Roy in the first period and fellow centre Tim Connolly in the third. Roy injured a shoulder, and Connolly was forced out by the flu. X-rays on Roy were negative.

"He had what you'd call a nerve stinger, and we decided to hold him out the rest of the game. Tim is just sick," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We've lost these kind of games in the past. When you lose your top two centres, and they're your playmaking centres, you have to win some games ugly. That was probably the most shots we've allowed in a while."

The Sabres led 1-0 after the first period despite being outshot 14-5, and protected that advantage all the way through the scoreless second when the Islanders held a 27-12 edge in shots.

Roy fired a shot that hit New York deafens Freddy Meyer, and the rebound kicked back to Roy. The next drive hit DiPietro's left leg and continued into the net at 6:11 on Buffalo's first shot.

It was quite a different defensive stance by the Islanders, who allowed 41 shots in a 5-3 loss at Buffalo last Wednesday. That started the Sabres' winning streak in which they have outscored opponents 15-8.

"We played the game we wanted to play. We played smart," DiPietro said. "Buffalo's bread and butter is their power play. You don't want to get to the box too many times. Unfortunately it ended up costing us at the end."

Notes: RW Blake Comeau, recalled by the Islanders to fill Simon's roster spot, played on a checking line with Richard Park and Tim Jackman. ... Buffalo became the ninth NHL team to reach 100 goals this season. New York has an NHL-low 72.



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