BUFFALO, N.Y. – Michael Grabner and the New York Islanders showed they have plenty of punch left in them. And this time they limited it to the offensive part of the scoresheet.
Putting behind their brawl-filled win against Pittsburgh on Friday, the injury- and suspension-depleted Islanders scored five times on 11 shots in the final 24 minutes of a 7-6 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
Grabner capped a three-goal game by scoring on a breakaway 2:55 into the extra frame, lifting the Islanders to their fourth three-game winning streak of the season.
And it came a day after the NHL suspended Trevor Gillies (nine games) and Matt Martin (four), and fined the team US$100,000 for failing to control its players against the Penguins in a 9-3 game that produced 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts.
“We went through a lot in the last 24 hours. You don’t know how the guys are going to respond,” coach Jack Capuano said. “I was impressed with the way we battled and showed a lot of resilience until the end.”
Kyle Okposo, who finished with four assists, set up the decisive goal by hitting Grabner on the fly at the Sabres’ blue-line. With a step on defender Andrej Sekera, Grabner snapped a shot past Ryan Miller and just inside the left post.
“It’s big for the team. After the last game, we had at home, we had to come out strong,” said Grabner, who has 24 goals to tie San Jose’s Logan Couture for the NHL rookie lead. “It was pretty crazy out there. It was up and down. We never gave up.”
John Tavares, Blake Comeau, Milan Jurcina and Ty Wishart also scored for the Islanders, who won for only the second time (2-20-2) this season when trailing after 40 minutes.
Drew Stafford scored three times for the Sabres, who lost a season-best three-game win streak and dropped to 12-4-2 in their past 18. It was Stafford’s league-leading fourth three-goal game of the season and second in three outings.
Tyler Ennis had three assists, while Jochen Hecht, Tyler Myers and Nathan Gerbe also scored for Buffalo. Miller struggled, allowing seven goals on just 26 shots.
“Give me a break, they scored goals,” Miller said, after being asked how he felt. “I’m just frustrated.”
Making his 31st consecutive start, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner was beaten twice on wraparound attempts, and looked soft on Wishart’s goal that provided the Islanders a 6-5 lead with 7:12 left in the third period. Miller whiffed when attempting to glove Wishart’s floater from the point, and the puck dribbled in behind him after hitting a player in front.
Jurcina had tied it 1:16 earlier on a one-timer from the left circle, as New York capitalized twice on overlapping power-play chances.
Coach Lindy Ruff acknowledged he contemplated pulling Miller, but elected to stick with the starter having seen the goalie battle back in the past.
“It’s no secret, Miller had a tough night,” Ruff said, who also wasn’t happy with his team’s defensive play. “I thought we could’ve been better, too.”
The Islanders had goaltending troubles of their own as starter Mikko Koskinen was chased after allowing four goals on 14 shots. Al Montoya, acquired in a trade with Phoenix on Wednesday, earned the win, stopping 12 shots in his first NHL appearance since April 2009.
Injuries also have decimated the Islanders’ lineup. They remain down numerous regulars, including starting goalie Rick DiPietro (broken bones in face), Doug Weight (back) and Mark Streit (shoulder). Comeau, meanwhile, returned after missing four games with a concussion.
Through all that adversity, the Isles proved feisty in a back-and-forth game that featured three lead changes and was tied five times.
The 10th-place Sabres at least came away with a point thanks to Stafford, who tied it at 6 with 6:41 remaining by slipping in a rebound off the right post after Montoya was left out of position after stopping Jordan Leopold’s point shot.
“We need all the points we can get here,” Stafford said. “It’s good we got at least one. But it’s not good enough when we weren’t tight enough defensively.”
NOTES: Grabner opened the scoring 40 seconds in. It was New York’s fastest to start a game this season. … Grabner extended his point streak to five games (nine goals, two assists). … Sabres RW Patrick Kaleta returned after missing six games with a left hand injury. … Wishart scored his first NHL goal in his eighth career game.