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OPPORTUNITY LOST

Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 11:52 PM / THE AFTERMATH
By Kevin Snow  - Sabres.com (@kwsnow)

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UNIONDALE, NY -- Michael Grabner scored twice in the third period, and Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves to become the 26th goaltender in league history to win 300 games, as the New York Islanders doubled up the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Saturday night.

Down 3-2 with 1:24 left in the third, the Sabres had a chance to tie the game when Thomas Vanek was awarded a penalty shot when the Islanders net was deliberately knocked off. He came in slowly and fired a shot low to the left that clearly had Nabokov beaten, but rang the puck off the post.

Vanek took the shot wearing a facemask after being struck near his right eye earlier in the game. Like many in the building, he was convinced he had tied the game.

“Right before, Lindy asked me how my vison was, and I thought I was good to go to score,” said Vanek, sporting a large red welt near his right eye after the game. “I thought I had the right play in mind, just gotta put it in.”

The loss was Buffalo’s eighth straight on the road, setting a new franchise record in this dubious category. The previous mark of seven games was achieved twice back in 1970. The Sabres haven’t won away from the First Niagara Center since December 2 in Nashville.

Coming off last night’s win over Toronto, the loss also prevented the Sabres from winning two straight games for the eighth time since November 12 – a span of 64 days.

LISTEN TO LINDY RUFF'S POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE

Grabner scored his game winner with 3:03 remaining in the third during a frantic goalmouth scramble. The puck pinballed around Jhonas Enroth before ending up on Grabner’s stick in the slot.

“I went out to the point to try to block a shot,” explained Derek Roy. “He threw it to the net, trying to shoot off the backside of Jhonas. It hit a few skates and then Tavares got it. I think we lost coverage in front and then Grabner ended up with an empty net. It was more about knocking guys down and getting sticks, making sure there’s no second opportunity.”

Enroth faced 38 shots in the game, and was at his acrobatic best in the first period stopping 13 of the 14 shots he faced, including one blast that slightly dislodged his mask. Matt Moulson was the only Islanders player to get a puck behind Enroth in the first period.

While Enroth was called to action early, he says the entire team needs to be ready to go at the opening faceoff.

“It’s a tough one today. We weren’t really ready from the start, and we didn’t really play as good as we can or as good as we have to do on the road. We need to step it up in the next couple of games or it’s going to be a long road trip for us.”

LISTEN TO ENROTH'S FULL POST-GAME AUDIO

A furious 130-second span late in the second period sent the two teams to their dressing rooms locked up at 2-2.

Patrick Kaleta got Buffalo on the board at 14:48 when he tipped Mike Weber's point shot past Nabokov for his third goal of the season. It was also Kaleta’s third point in the past two games.

The Islanders regained the lead at 16:16 when Kyle Okposo finished off a three-on-one after a nice pass from Moulson. But it only took 42 seconds for Buffalo to answer back. Nathan Gerbe intercepted Nabokov's clearing attempt behind the net and found Roy all alone in front who made no mistake for his ninth of the year, and first since December 22.

Robyn Regehr left the game in the third period with an upper body injury, and Lindy Ruff said he is expected to miss some time.

NOTES: Brayden McNabb was injured in Friday’s game against Toronto, and did not travel with the team last night as he is expected to be out for a period of time … McNabb, Cody McCormick (healthy) and Christian Ehrhoff (upper body) were Buffalo’s scratches. Ehrhoff has now missed six games … Joe Finley was recalled earlier in the day from Rochester. He had 9:22 of ice time, and battled Matt Martin in a spirited heavyweight tilt in the second period … This concluded Buffalo’s 12th of a league-high 21 sets of back to-back games. They are 7-5-0 in the first game, and are now 5-5-2 in the second game.

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