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Islanders vs. Sabres: Improved power play earns another win (Highlights)

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the New York Islanders (r) celebrates his game-winning power-play goal at 15:08 of the third period against the Buffalo Sabres and is joined by Oliver Wahlstrom #26 (l) at the Nassau Coliseum on February 22, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 22: Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the New York Islanders (r) celebrates his game-winning power-play goal at 15:08 of the third period against the Buffalo Sabres and is joined by Oliver Wahlstrom #26 (l) at the Nassau Coliseum on February 22, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The New York Islanders were looking to get back to winning ways after back-to-back regulation losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins. There was no secret in how to do so, the template was right there for them to follow.

The way they played against the Pens on Saturday is exactly how they should play the Sabres today. They outshot the Penguins 36-18, out-chanced them 31 to 22, and had more quality efforts with a 2.44 xGF to the Penguins 1.46 (stats from the ever-excellent NatutalStatTrick).

That performance should have given the Islanders two points on the day. Of course, they didn’t get a single point, but that type of performance would give them a ‘W’ nine times out of ten.

New York Islanders pull out a win after waking up late

Through 30 minutes of play, the Islanders had six shots on the net. I don’t have to pull advanced analytics for you to know that wasn’t the same type of performance they had in Pittsburgh a few nights earlier. This was not the way to get two points and move up the standings.

The Islanders were lucky to be even in goals at one with the Sabres through 40 minutes of play.

Anders Lee buried his eighth of the year with some nice work in tight on Linus Ullmark. With eight goals in 18 games, Lee is on pace for 36 goals over an 82 game season. For those worried that Lee might not earn that $7 million AAV, don’t.

The Islanders would end the second period with 61% of the shots, 75% of the scoring chances, and 82.17 xGF%. It took a while for them to get to where they wanted to be, but when they got there, the Islanders didn’t really look back.

Going into the third period of the game (and in the latter part of the second period), the Islanders woke up and started generating a number of good chances in the Buffalo end.

Linus Ullmark and the posts stood tall and kept the Islanders at bay until Matt Martin turns and fire this shot in the third period for his second of the year. The Islanders are at their best when their depth players start putting up points like this one from Martin.

The only wobble in the game came after Andres Lee took an ill-disciplined interference call in the third which gave the Sabres 30+% efficient power play a chance to tie it. Which they did of course. The Sabres had four shots on that power play, all of them were scoring chances. On their fourth and final chance on the PP, Sam Reinhart pulled an incredible lacrosse move to tie it at two.

Not to be outdone, the Islanders showed off their own mettle on the power play. A late call on Riley Shehan for tripping Mat Barzal put the Isles unit which has four goals on their last ten opportunities.

Look, it wasn’t as clinical as the Sabres power play. The Isles only had two shots on the man-advantage, both came in the same passage of play with Wahlstrom firing a tantalizing shot from the “Ovie office” that Ullmark stopped only for Pageau to bury the rebound.

That PPG puts the Isles man advantage at 23.1% which should move them up from 14th overall to 13th overall. Remember, this is the same team that averaged a 15.7% efficiency over the previous two seasons. And it’s not as if they made any big changes to their roster.

The win pushes the team back up into a playoff spot and third in the Eastern Conference. Boston will be the next team to try and break the Isles 5-0-1 home record on Thursday.

Winners

Semyon Varlamov (34Svs, 0.944SV%): Varly was excellent, specifically on the PK with six stops on seven shots.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1G, 2SOG): Captain Clutch. JGP gets the game-winner on the PP.
Oliver Wahlstrom (1A): He’s putting up points by using that incredible shot of his.

Losers

Riley Shehan (2PIM, 11:03TOI): He didn’t get a ton of ice-time, and one of the few times he was out there he tripped Barzal and gave the Isles the chance to win the game.
Kyle Okposo (-1): He had a few chances, but it’s clear Kyle is no longer the player he used to be. He just wasn’t much of a factor the Sabres
Anders Lee (1G, 2PIM): An ill-disciplined penalty nearly unraveled everything the Isles had done.

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