Escape from Dull Island
Sabres score two crucial points in a goaltender’s duel
Score: Sabres 2 | Islanders 0
Shots: BUF 35 | NYI 27
Buffalo Sabres Goals:
1) Okposo (Lyubushkin)
2) Skinner (Cozens, Mittelstadt)
New York Islanders Goals:
Minus 1: Goaltending - The Miracle Cure
There are few things that change a hockey game like stellar goaltending. It can stifle a dominant offense and give a team a chance to steal points after being vastly outplayed. This is exactly what happened during this battle. The Sabres dominated most of the game and generated dangerous scoring chances throughout but could not get past Varlamov until late in the 3rd period. Even when the Islanders’ low-event style of play failed to quash the Sabres attack, they were bailed out by the veteran netminder. He made some spectacular saves in this one. Most notably, he robbed Dylan Cozens blind with a cross-crease pad save that prevented an early Sabres lead. If not for a fortunate broken play near the end of the game, Varlamov might have dragged his team kicking, and screaming into a scoreless overtime period.
Plus 1: Comrie’s Comeback
When last we saw Eric Comrie between the pipes, it was about a bleak as it can get for a goaltender. He surrendered 10 goals at home in a nightmare loss to the Dalas Stars on March 9th. Due to an injury and the Sabres goaltending situation, Comrie didn’t have a chance at redemption for two long weeks. However, he did not disappoint. In a game where Buffalo controlled most of the play, Comrie was still asked to make some huge saves. The best stop of the night came late in the 3rd with the game still tied. The Islanders looked poised to break the stalemate with an open chance in tight. Comrie was able to slide to his right and beat the Islander forward to the post before he could tuck it beyond the goal line. On a night where he wasn’t bombarded with shots, Comrie was able to rise to the occasion and provide the solid goaltending Buffalo has only seen sporadically this season. By earning his first shutout as a Sabre, he followed up his worst night as a Sabre with one of his best.
Plus 2: Looks the Same in the Box Score
The old saying goes: “they don’t ask how; they ask how many.” That saying is a perfect encapsulation of Okposo’s game winning goal. It was a broken play off a deflected Lyubushkin point shot that happened to find Okposo in the slot. While regaining his footing, captain Kyle did not hesitate to throw the puck towards the net. This was the only time of the game a puck got past a goaltender all night. It certainly won’t make any highlight reels but was as clutch as they come. Buffalo has had a season’s worth of pretty goals. I don’t think fans will be disappointed if some eyesore looking tallies help their playoff chances.
This was a must win game for Buffalo and they played like it. They dominated the Islanders from the opening puck drop and didn’t let up. If not for some absurdly good goaltending by Varlamov, this could have easily been a 4 to 5 goal route. Each line found a way to contribute. Most importantly, they played fearless. The last two wins have been a return to how the team played for most of the year. Hopefully, they have put the near collapse behind them and can find a way to string together some wins down the stretch. It took a miraculous, last second victory by the Bengals to break the Bills playoff drought. It would only be fitting if they Sabres had something dramatic occur to finally return to the postseason. There’s still hope.