BUFFALO, N.Y. – Michael Grabner got the New York Islanders off to such a quick start it didn’t matter that Buffalo’s Nathan Gerbe nearly matched the NHL record for fastest two goals by a player.
Grabner and Matt Moulson scored 3:04 apart midway through the first period, and the Islanders built a 4-0 lead before coasting to a 5-2 victory over the Sabres on Friday night. Grabner added an empty-netter, and P.A. Parenteau and Jack Hillen also scored to help the Islanders beat Buffalo for the second time in seven days.
And this time they did it by getting off to a fast start—something that had been missing for an Islanders team that had given up the first goal in each of its previous eight games.
“Our starts were real slow the last couple of weeks,” Grabner said. “We wanted to get the first goal and play with the lead for once and have the other team scramble back.”
The Sabres didn’t have much in response, except for Gerbe’s brief and sudden eruption.
The forward scored on a backhander to cut it to 4-1 with 3:22 left in the third period. Gerbe scored again five seconds later to set the franchise record for the fastest goals by one player.
The five-second span matched Pete Mahovlich for the third-fastest goals by a player in NHL history. Mahovlich did for Montreal in 1971. The record is four seconds, set by the Montreal Maroons’ Nels Stewart in 1931 and matched by Winnipeg’s Deron Quint in 1995.
It wasn’t nearly enough for a Sabres team that was flat from the beginning, and was undone by it’s own mistakes.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Gerbe, who wasn’t in any mood to talk about his two goals.
The Sabres lost for only the third time in 11 games (7-3-1).
The Islanders improved to 15-24-7 with their second victory in seven games (2-4-1), while winning at Buffalo for only the third time in 11 trips. And they did it with a pair of rookie goalies playing with starter Rick DiPietro back home nursing flulike symptoms.
Nathan Lawson stopped 10 shots in the first period, before leaving because of a left knee injury. Kevin Poulin took over and stopped 26 of 28 shots for his second career victory.
“It’s too bad, but it’s going to happen,” Poulin said of failing to finish the shutout bid. “They worked hard and didn’t give up.”
The Sabres didn’t work nearly hard enough, as far as coach Lindy Ruff was concerned.
“I didn’t like the start of the game, not at all,” Ruff said, noting the Sabres were down 2-0 while being outshot 10-3 before the game was 11 minutes old. “I didn’t like our first shift. It wasn’t good enough.”
Ruff pulled Ryan Miller after the second goal in a bid to spark his team. Patrick Lalime stopped 16 shots, but didn’t get any help in front of him either.
Grabner opened the scoring 7:26 in, when his centring pass from the left corner banked in off Sabres defenceman Tyler Myers. And Myers was at fault before the goal because he twice failed to clear the zone.
The Sabres looked worse when Parenteau was left alone in front to put the Islanders ahead 3-0 with 5:25 left in the second period. Moulson helped set up the goal when he pressured Sabres defenceman Mike Weber deep in the Buffalo zone.
Weber made a weak pass up the left boards, with the puck landing directly on the stick of Islanders forward John Tavares, who immediately fed a pass to Parenteau.
The Sabres had several scoring chances but wound up either hitting the post—as Thomas Vanek and Marc-Andre Gragnani did in the second period—or being foiled by Poulin.
Poulin did make two key stops midway through the second period. He kicked out his right pad to foil Steve Montador’s snap shot from the slot and then recovered in time to make a snow angel to stop Jochen Hecht’s attempt to convert the rebound.
NOTES: Through a quirk in the schedule, the Sabres and Islanders will meet for a third time in nine days at Long Island on Sunday. … Sabres RW Patrick Kaleta did not return after the first period after aggravating a left hand injury. Kaleta was only playing his third game since missing seven with a broken left hand. And he had been cleared to play Friday despite hurting the same hand while blocking a shot at Boston on Thursday. … The Islanders improved to 10-6-2 since ending a 1-17-3 skid. … Coming off consecutive victories, the Sabres have yet to win three straight this season.