Uniondale, NY – Alexander Sulzer scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and Ryan Miller delivered a stellar performance in net, enabling the Buffalo Sabres to come through with a 3-2 win over the slumping New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Miller recorded 41 saves, as well as a game-saving stop of John Tavares on a penalty shot with 3:53 left to play, as Buffalo earned its second straight victory despite being outshot by a 43-15 margin on the night.
"Ryan made the big saves when we needed them," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff.
Thomas Vanek contributed to the triumph with his league-leading 11th goal of the season along with an assist. Christian Ehrhoff also tallied a goal for the Sabres and Cody Hodgson added a pair of assists.
Tavares did register a goal in the first period, but Evgeni Nabokov managed just 12 saves as the Islanders suffered their fourth consecutive defeat. Colin McDonald netted New York's other goal, with Brian Strait notching two assists in the setback.
Sulzer snapped a 2-2 deadlock with a one-timer 7:35 into the final period, a blast that caromed off Nabokov's shoulder and trickled into the net for the defenseman's third goal of the season.
The Islanders had a golden opportunity to draw even later on, when Tavares was taken down after breaking in alone on Miller and was awarded the penalty shot. The standout young center, who hit the right post on an uncontested rush with the score still tied at 2-2 early in the frame, tried to sneak a backhander through Miller's glove side, but the veteran netminder stoned the attempt before smothering the puck to preserve the Sabres' lead.
It would be the last good chance for New York, which had its fate sealed when Brad Boyes was whistled for hooking Hodgson with 1:20 left to play.
"We came close and we had a bunch of opportunities," said Tavares. "Sometimes it's bad luck, but I think as many opportunities as we had, we've got to put them in when we can."
Miller was also sharp against a barrage of shots by the Islanders early on, coming up with seven saves in the game's nine minutes, and Vanek continued his hot streak to begin the scoring near the midway stage of the first period.
The veteran wing poked a loose puck centered in front of the crease by Jordan Leopold through the legs of Nabokov to give Buffalo a 1-0 edge at the 9:11 mark of the opening session.
New York, which outshot the Sabres 15-4 in the period, finally broke through just prior to the first intermission, when Tavares skated around the net to knock in a rebound after Miller made the initial save on a shot by Strait.
The Sabres regained the upper hand with 7:39 left in the second period, with Ehrhoff beating Nabokov one-on-one after cradling in a heads-up pass from Hodgson. The Islanders tied it just over five minutes later, however, when McDonald fired home a wrister off a behind-the-net feed from Casey Cizikas for his second career NHL goal.
Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky and forward Josh Bailey both made their season debuts for the Islanders. Visnovsky finally reported to the team earlier in the week after attempting to remain in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League following the resolution of the lockout, while Bailey had been sidelined with a knee injury sustained while playing in Germany during the work stoppage ... Forward Patrick Kaleta and defenseman Andrej Sekera each returned to the Buffalo lineup after missing time with injuries, with Kaleta sidelined five games with a neck sprain and Sekera three due to a bone bruise in his foot ... Defenseman Tyler Myers, a league-worst minus-nine on the season, was a healthy scratch for the Sabres ... Sulzer's game-winner came in his 100th career NHL game ... McDonald's only other NHL goal came while with Edmonton at Vancouver on Nov. 28, 2009 ... The Islanders went 0-for-3 on the power play and have failed to score in 22 chances with the man advantage during their four-game skid.