BUFFALO, N.Y. – Despite snapping a three-game winless streak, the Buffalo Sabres aren’t taking any solace from gaining two points the hard way.
Ales Kotalik and Drew Stafford scored shootout goals, and Ryan Miller stopped both of New York’s attempts in Buffalo’s 4-3 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night.
The Sabres, though, squandered a late third-period lead, and the Islanders tied it with a pair of goals in the final 1:34.
“We have to play better,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We got a little tight. They started pinching a lot and we didn’t handle it very well. Our passing and our execution coming up ice wasn’t very good, and it led to them controlling most of the play.”
Miller finished with 32 saves, and was particularly sharp for most of the third period when the Islanders took the play away from the stagnant Sabres. New York outshot Buffalo by a 12-5 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation, but fell short of winning two straight games for the first time since a two-game winning streak that started with a victory in Buffalo on Nov. 22.
Mike Comrie made it 3-2 with 1:34 left in regulation when he scored while the Islanders had a 6-on-4 power play after pulling Joey MacDonald. Chris Campoli sent the game into overtime when he beat Miller with a wrist shot from the slot with two seconds left in regulation and the Islanders with the extra attacker.
“When you’re causing a lot of plays in front of the net, anything can happen,” Comrie said. “We can build on this, and can focus on taking the positives out.”
Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville scored power-play goals, and Clarke MacArthur also scored for Buffalo. The Sabres won for the first time in four games (1-1-2) to improve to 17-14-5. Kotalik added a pair of assists.
“We let them back in the game,” Hecht said. “They were able to chip the puck in and put pressure on our defencemen. We didn’t have many shifts where we created something in their end. They worked hard to get it out, and we couldn’t get back quick enough.”
Jeff Tambellini also scored for New York (11-21-4), which snapped a 10-game losing streak Friday night at home with a victory over Toronto. MacDonald made 34 saves in his seventh start in the last eight games.
“I can at least hold my head up high the last five games and say the guys have resembled a team that is competing for 60 minutes,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said.
Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, who returned Friday night from a two-month layoff after his second knee surgery in five months, was scratched. He’s expected to start Monday night at the New York Rangers.
Hecht opened the scoring with his fourth of the year with seven minutes left in the first period on the power play. Hecht tapped-in Maxim Afinogenov’s pass from down low to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead.
Tambellini tied it with his first of the season 9:38 into the second period. Mark Streit carried the puck behind the Buffalo goal before feeding Tambellini at the bottom of the left circle. Tambellini then deposited the puck past a sprawling Miller, who had originally committed on Streit’s move.
Buffalo regained its one-goal lead when Pominville converted on a two-man advantage with 6:51 left in the second period, lifting a rebound over MacDonald.
MacArthur upped Buffalo’s lead to 3-1 with 5:23 left in the third, scoring his 10th of the season by snapping a shot past MacDonald from the slot.
“We weren’t happy about (losing the lead), that’s for sure. But we stuck with it,” Pominville said. “We definitely feel good about our chances once we go into the shootout because we have guys that can put the puck in the net, and Miller is solid back there for us.”
Notes: Sabres LW Tim Kennedy made his NHL debut after he was recalled from Portland of the AHL prior to the game. … The Islanders recalled C Jeremy Colliton from Bridgeport of the AHL prior to the game to replace injured LW Andy Hilbert. … Buffalo improved to 2-5-1 in the second-half of back-to-back games. … Hecht had gone nine games without scoring. … Tambellini scored his first goal since Feb. 12. … The Sabres have won 11 of the last 15 meetings between the two teams.