Martin Biron wore a hard hat and a grin after a big night of milestones for the New York Islanders.
As a reward for earning 200th NHL win and 26th career shutout, Biron donned the Islanders’ informal reward for the player of the game. It could’ve been shared with Jeff Tambellini, who posted his first NHL hat trick.
Biron, 0-3-2 in his first six outings since joining the Islanders in the off-season, made 38 – including 10 power-play shots – en route to his first shutout since Feb. 25, when he was with Philadelphia.
After losing their first six games, the Islanders (4-4-5) pulled to .500 by winning for the third time in four days.
“We found the way we want to play and how we can respond against good teams,” Biron said. “I think everybody is starting to understand each other a little bit better.”
Tambellini, who never had a two-goal game in his first four NHL seasons, now has two in four games. Richard Park and Josh Bailey added goals for New York, which also beat the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals this week.
“This puts us right in the thick of things in the East,” Tambellini said. “We’re finding a way to (get) goals from more than just our top line.”
Tambellini’s father, Edmonton Oilers general manager and former Islanders player Steve Tambellini, was in attendance and got to see his son’s milestone. New York will host the Oilers on Monday.
“It’s a pretty special night for me,” Jeff Tambellini said. “I was happy he got to see that.”
Tambellini scored his first two goals 3:04 apart in the second period. His second, scored at 12:20, forced Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff to pull starting goalie Ryan Miller after the Islanders built a 3-0 lead. Miller was 8-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average before he allowed three goals on 16 shots.
“We didn’t get on them early,” Miller said. “Normally I like to stay in but at that point, Lindy wanted a different look to the game, so that’s what happens.”
The Sabres, who like the Islanders played for the second straight night, had their four-game winning streak ended. Buffalo went 0-for-5 on the power play.
New York broke Washington’s six-game winning streak on Friday and controlled play Saturday even though they were outshot 38-30.
Buffalo has allowed eight goals to the Islanders in two games, including the Sabres’ 6-3 home win on Oct. 15 No other club has scored more than two goals this season.
That support helped Biron to his big win.
“It’s great to give the guys a bit of a confidence boost,” said Biron, a former Sabres goalie. “It took a little longer than I wanted, but we’ll take them.”
Park opened the scoring 17:13 in, stealing the puck from Tyler Myers in the Buffalo zone and firing a left-circle wrist shot past Miller for his first of the season.
“We’ve had our chances and scoring hasn’t come easy for us,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. “I’m encouraged that every night it’s been a different line that’s made the difference.”
Biron was sharp early, stopping eight first-period, power-play shots. Jason Pominville had five of Buffalo’s 14 first-period shots and finished with a game-high seven.
A three-goal second period rattled the Sabres, who lost their first road game (4-1). Ruff said he pulled Miller to spark the Sabres and not because he was dissatisfied with the goaltending.
“We came out of the shoot and outchanced them 10-3 in the first period. That should be good enough for a 3-0 lead,” Ruff said. “The only disappointing part was the offence part of it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t crack Marty.”
Tambellini scored his first goal 9:16 into the second.
Just minutes later, Islanders captain Doug Weight set up Tambellini’s left-circle one-timer that made it 3-0 and brought backup goalie Patrick Lalime into the game.
“This is the way I usually play,” Tambellini said. “Last year was my first full year in the NHL. I just feel like I’m back doing my thing.”
Lalime was on the ice barely three minutes before Bailey’s shot from the high slot make it 4-0. Tambellini scored his third of the night with 4:18 left as the sparse crowd chanted his name and sent hats crashing to the ice – including a New York Jets football helmet.
Weight, who returned to the lineup this week after recovering from the swine flu, was given a penalty shot with 13 seconds left but was stopped by Lalime’s pad.
NOTES: Tambellini had an eight-game goal drought, dating to last season, before busting out with six goals in five games. The 25-year-old forward netted just 11 goals in his first 143 NHL games before this streak. … The last time the Islanders posted a winning streak of at least three games was Feb. 3 when they capped a four-game streak with a victory over Tampa Bay. Buffalo trailed after the first period for the third time this season. … Buffalo’s Henrik Tallinder and Myers were the NHL’s only defensive pairing to be in the top-10 in plus-minus. The duo was a combined minus-3 in this loss.