Maxim Afinogenov pumped in a goal and assist, Ryan Miller stopped 29 shots, and the perfect Sabres beat the New York Islanders 3-0 Thursday night to win their 10th straight game and match the best start the NHL has ever seen. Afinogenov set up Ales Kotalik’s first-period goal and scored one in the second. Miller did the rest for the Sabres, who joined the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only teams to jump out 10-0.
The Sabres can break the record at home against Atlanta on Saturday. Buffalo, which fell one win shy of the Stanley Cup final last season, has a team-record 15 consecutive regular-season victories.
By the time Jason Pominville stretched the lead to 3-0 early in the third period, the sparse crowd of 8,861 at Nassau Coliseum had already grown frustrated with the home team. Boos and groans were easily heard, as were the many saves that thumped off Miller’s pads and blocker.
The Sabres have quickly become the flashiest offensive team in the NHL, posting 49 goals in their first 10 games. But they used a methodical attack against the Islanders, scoring once in each period to back Miller’s strong goaltending. The 26-year-old American improved to 8-0 and posted his third career shutout.
Kotalik provided the only offence Buffalo would need with a power-play goal in the opening period.
Jaroslav Spacek and Afinogenov worked a two-man game on the right side of the Islanders zone. Spacek then slid a crossing pass to Kotalik, who ripped a shot from above the left circle past Rick DiPietro that smacked the back of the net and caromed back out at 6:09 – 47 seconds into Buffalo’s 5-on-3 power play.
The only downside for the Sabres was they converted only one of seven power plays.
New York outshot Buffalo 11-6 in the second period, but each Islanders scoring chance was thwarted by Miller, who improved to 4-0 on the road this season.
Buffalo doubled its advantage with a trademark burst of speed.
Sabres defenceman Toni Lydman banked the puck off the boards past New York’s Brendan Witt, who dropped his head and turned to chase it.
He was no match for the speedy Afinogenov, who tracked down the puck, cut in alone on DiPietro, and made a forehand-to-backhand move to get the goalie out of position. DiPietro did the splits and made a desperation reach with his stick, but couldn’t stop Afinogenov from scoring his sixth goal of the season at 4:12.
Pominville then finished off a 3-on-2 rush by steering in Daniel Briere’s pass 3:27 into the final period.
That clinched Buffalo’s latest win and ended any hope the Islanders had of continuing their streak-busting history.
New York snapped Vancouver’s team-record, 10-game winning streak in December 2002, and ended Toronto’s 16-game point streak the following year on Long Island.
Notes: Afinogenov, the NHL’s No. 1 star last week, has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in the past six games. … DiPietro, who earned a victory Saturday after missing four games with a groin injury, fell to 1-4. … New York, which held a 29-27 shots advantage, was 0-for-3 on the power play. … Islanders coach Ted Nolan was the NHL coach of the year with Buffalo in the 1996-97 season.