Randy Robitaille scored with 3:09 left in regulation to help rally New York to a 5-3 victory over Buffalo on Saturday night.
Robitaille picked off a clearing attempt on the left side and launched a 45-foot slap shot that got past a screened Ryan Miller to give the Islanders their first win at home since Dec. 26. They were 0-3-1 since.
The loss extended Buffalo’s losing streak to a season-high three games.
“Every loss matters,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think we have some players who are a little out of synch now. With the break, and having some guys at the all-star game, we need to get a few heads back on shoulders.”
Andy Hilbert added an insurance goal with 53.9 seconds left.
Arron Asham scored twice and Trent Hunter also scored for the Islanders, while Rick DiPietro – yanked after allowing three goals on five shots Friday night in Atlanta – made 25 saves for the win.
It was just the third time this season New York won when trailing after two periods (3-9-0).
“It just happened to be (against) Buffalo, but it’s special any time you can come back in the third period of a game like that,” current Islanders coach and former Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. “Getting three of four points this weekend against teams like that is a good sign for us.”
The Islanders came back from an early 3-0 deficit to lose in overtime in Atlanta on Friday night.
Jochen Hecht scored twice for the Sabres, while Ales Kotalik added a goal and Miller stopped 26 shots. The Sabres had previously beaten the Islanders six consecutive times, dating back to a 4-2 home loss on Feb. 27, 2004.
Hunter opened the scoring at 7:42 of the first period. He took a loose puck in the Buffalo zone, moved down the right boards, avoided a check, got around another player as he manoeuvred into the lower right circle and beat Miller to the far side with a low backhand.
Hecht tied the game at 15:01, shortly after the Sabres killed a penalty. Hecht picked up a loose rebound at the left crease, and with DiPietro down in a pileup, backhanded it home.
Miller preserved the tie with 3:51 left in the period with a dazzling rising glove save on Andy Hilbert’s point-blank one-timer from the low slot.
Asham put New York ahead 2-1 on a one-timer at 3:03 of the second period, as he converted on a cross-ice feed from Richard Park.
Hecht tied the score with a power-play goal at 5:00. Nathan Paetsch’s point shot was saved by DiPietro, but Hecht tipped the rebound off the right post. DiPietro, trying to reach behind him to snare the airborne puck, instead knocked it in with his glove.
Kotalik put the Sabres ahead for the first time at 12:25. His redirection of a pass hit off the right post, and just tucked under the crossbar. The goal survived a video review.
It was Kotalik’s 14th goal this season, but just his first in seven games.
Asham tied the score at 6:53 of the final period. He fired a slap shot just inside the blue line that hit Miller’s pads and dribbled through.
“We had a little transition, and Rourkey (Allan Rourke) made a nice pass,” Asham said. “I just buried my head and took the shot. I was just trying to get it on net, and thank God it went in.”
Asham has never picked up a hat trick, and this was the fifth time in his career he had a two-goal game.
Hunter said that his teammate should use his shot more.
“Any one who has seen Ash shoot the puck in practice knows he can shoot real hard,” Hunter said. “I know I wouldn’t want to stand in front of it.”
According to Buffalo forward Chris Drury, the Sabres are just trying to get by this run of close losses.
“It’s tough when you lose back-to-back games by blowing leads and giving up late goals,” Drury said. “It’s a long season. We can’t get too high when things are going well, and we can’t get too low when we hit a rough patch. We just have to focus on the next game.”
Notes: Islanders defenceman Brendan Witt missed the game with a hand injury. Allan Rourke was recalled from Bridgeport to take his place. … The Islanders wore throwback jerseys in a nod to their debut in 1972. The jerseys were a royal blue, with muted orange and white stripes, and orange numbers on the back and sleeves. Also, between faceoffs, there was no canned music just organ music.