After a strong 3-0 win against the New York Rangers on home ice, the New York Islanders traveled to the hapless Buffalo Sabres. The Isles clinched a playoff spot with the win in Nassau and were now looking to get home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
Buffalo was on a four-game slide and was featuring a career ECHL goalie who was making his first debut at any level since 2020. You’d think a win was almost inevitable for the Islanders.
Unless you’ve been watching the Islanders for longer than this season, you didn’t enter the game full of hope. You knew that backup, third, fourth, or even fifth-string goalies making their debuts always play well against the Islanders. You also know that the next time out after a Ranger game is not usually a good time.
Ranger hangovers are a thing that have happened numerous times over the years. Even Barry Trotz said in his post-game that he was worried about this game. He specifically called on his player’s emotional preparedness tonight.
Case and point tonight, after going up 2-0 the Isles took their foot off the gas and let the Sabres run the show with four unanswered goals. Michael Houser for his part stopped 34 of 36 shots for a 0.944SV%.
The Islanders will have a chance to fix whatever went wrong tonight in less than 24 hours with a date against the Sabres tomorrow.
New York Islanders fall 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres
Adam Pelech (1G, 1A, 2SOG): Adam Pelech continued to do good things for the Isles. Picking up two points with his fourth goal of the year. Keep in mind his career-high is five goals. With four in 52 games, Pelech is on pace to exceed that career-high this season.
Semyon Varlamov (36 saves, 0.923SV%): The Islanders goalie was a big reason this game wasn’t any worse than it was. Semyon Varlamov kept the puck out as long as he could until the floodgates opened 14:04 into the second period.
With a 213-minute shutout streak, Varlamov now holds the 12th longest shutout streak in NHL history.
Oliver Wahlstrom (1G, 3SOG): Another goal for Oliver Wahlstrom. After being a healthy scratch for so long, it’s good to see Wahlstrom get some production during his rare 5on5 time.
Nick Leddy: Not a great night for Nick Leddy. The Islanders defenseman could be faulted with at least two goals against. He wasn’t strong enough on Asplund’s goal and he failed to connect a pass late in the game the directly lead to an empty-net goal against.
Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri: Their game score stats today weren’t terrible (combined for 2.12), but they were invisible at best tonight. At some point, you hope these two start making more of an impact on the score sheet.
(*I didn’t notice till well after I published this that Palmieri picked up a secondary assist on Wahlstrom’s goal. Which still says a lot about his game tonight.)
Leo Komarov (4 PIM, -0.99GS): Uncle Leo did not have a particularly great game today. His -0.99 game score was the lowest for anyone wearing blue and orange tonight.