Nathan Gerbe snapped a tie early in the third period with a power-play goal, and the Buffalo Sabres salvaged a split of the home-and-home series by beating the New York Islanders 5-3 on Sunday.
With drama and intrigue surrounding the Islanders one day after they claimed veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings, New York was unable to beat Buffalo for the third time in nine days.
That included a 5-2 road win Friday night, when Gerbe scored both Sabres goals 5 seconds apart in the third period. He finished a fine three-way passing play to net the winner 1:48 into the final period Sunday. Tyler Myers sent the puck from the right point to the right circle to Tyler Ennis, who made a backhanded pass behind him to Gerbe for his sixth goal.
Myers pushed the Sabres' edge to 4-2 at 3:53, nudging the puck past Rick DiPietro. The goal was confirmed by a video review.
Paul Gaustad and Ennis had staked Buffalo to one-goal leads in each of the first two periods. Ryan Miller, who was pulled from Friday's loss after allowing two goals in 11 minutes, bounced back with a 31-save effort.
Buffalo has won three of four and four of six, with the only losses in that span to the Islanders. Jason Pominville sealed this win by scoring an empty-net goal with 23.7 seconds remaining.
Matt Moulson scored two tying goals in the second period, and defenseman Jack Hillen brought New York within 4-3 with 3:23 remaining, but the Islanders fell to 3-6-1 in their last 10.
They were glad to have DiPietro back after his bout with the flu that came on the heels of a groin injury and lingering trouble with his surgically repaired knee that forced him to miss 13 of the previous 17 games.
DiPietro made 18 saves. But with his health unreliable, along with a knee injury to backup Nathan Lawson and the inexperience of 20-year-old Kevin Poulin, the Islanders were prompted to claim the 35-year-old Nabokov off waivers Saturday. Nabokov had his heart set on joining the Stanley Cup-contending Red Wings and has so far decided not to report to the Islanders, who are way out of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Gaustad gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game when he put in a rebound in front of DiPietro, but the Islanders tied it on Moulson's power-play goal at 1:15 of the second.
Ennis put the Sabres back in front at 4:58, but Moulson struck again with 6:33 left in the second when he scored off a rebound of P.A. Parenteau's tip-in attempt off a pass from John Tavares.
Notes: Lawson has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and is expected to be out one to two weeks. ... The Islanders record for fastest goal allowed at the start of a game is 8 seconds, held by Washington's Alexander Semin, who did it Nov. 11, 2009. ... Gerbe has scored four of his six goals in the past three games. ... Miller has made 25 consecutive starts. ... The Islanders allowed the first goal for the eighth time in nine games. ... Fans were admonished by the public-address announcer not to throw objects onto the ice after brief delays in the second and third periods.