UNIONDALE -- I'm not going to spend too much time and space here crabbing about the Nassau Coliseum, easily the biggest dump in the National Hockey League. This massive Lighthouse project they keep talking about here to renovate the place better get a move on, or it would make more sense for us to be eating bar-b-q in Kansas City, seafood in Seattle or whatever they specialize in in Winnipeg than to keep this franchise here.
The Islanders are coming off a 6-0 drubbing of Detroit and playing very well (7-2-1 in their last 10), but it's doubtful there will be a full house or close to it here. More people than we saw Thursday in Atlanta but certainly not a jammed crowd either. The poor fans don't have too many nice touches either.
The place has hideously tiny concourses. Walking through the stands at the morning skate, seats are flimsy, steel rows are uneven. Whole sections of seats are different colored. The press box is a tight shack with those old school chairs that swing out bbefore you can sit down. But I will admit it is low and one of the better views for us in the league. Go to a place like the Prudential Center and the game is in Newark but the press box is in Passaic.
OK. Three paragraphs are enough. Let's get to the game. As we learned this morning, Rick DiPietro will be in goal for the Islanders for his first appearance here in nearly 13 months. Ryan Miller for Buffalo. The Sabres can pull into a first-place tie in the East with a win tonight as the Devils have already lost at Colorado, 3-1. yes, the twice-in-a-row-outta-the-playoffs Sabres could end the night atop the East. Crazy. The Sabres can also push their Northeast Division lead to 11 points over Boston, which just dropped a 4-3 shootout decision at Los Angeles.
The game will be shown in HD on MSG but remember that Rick Jeanneret has taken his vacation and Kevin Sylvester will do the play-by-play with Harry Neale. I thought I saw Darryl Strawberry this afternoon in the lobby of the Long Island Marriott across the street. Nah, couldn't be. Turns out it was. He's here for a ceremonial puck drop for autism awareness.
Shootout numbers: The Isles won it, 4-3, on Trent Hunter's goal in the eighth round. Seven tallies tied the NHL record which Buffalo and Colorado equaled with their 11-rounder last Saturday. The Sabres are just 2-4 in shootouts this year and are 9-34 on their attempts. Miller had given up just three goals on 12 previous attempts before yielding four this time.
14:36 left: Sabres nearly tied it early in the period on Butler's wrist shot that deflected off the goal post. The teams are now four-on-four after scrum behind the Buffalo net resulted in roughing penalties on Tallinder and Mark Streit, who shut the puck at Miller after a whistle for offside.
13:36 left: Richard Park scores on a wrist shot from the right but it's waved off immediately for goaltender interference because of a skate in the crease by Andy Sutton. No penalty on the play, just a faceoff outside the zone. Looked like the Sabres got a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge break there.
10:25 left: And the disallowed goal rates huuuuuuuuuuuuge for Buffalo as the Sabres tie it up. Stafford gets the goal, as Butler's shot leaks through DiPietro and Stafford has an easy tap for his team-high 12th, neatly kicking the puck to his stick just before he put it in the net.
5:22 left: Still tied. The Isles goal was wiped out on a high stick is the explanation on TV? Then how was there not a penalty. We're going to have to sort this out afterward. No official explanation.
On to OT: Shots are 35-29 for the Isles -- meaning it was 12-4 for Buffalo in the third. Clutch.
18:51 left: Ruff's outrage apparently didn't help. Myers gone for cross checking. Ticky-tack stuff.
16:35 left: Josh Bailey cranks a rebound off the post behind Miller, who is struggling to control rebounds in this one.
14:21 left: Miller stops Vogl's Isles buddy Sean Bergenheim from in front after a long, bad shift from the Roy line as well as Butler and Rivet.
11:00 left: DiPietro stops Vanek on a 30-foot slapshot on a 4-on-2. I griped Thursday that Vanek was passing and not shooting. Here was one he might have considered using his mates.
10:30 left: Another penalty. Hecht for slashing. That's four for Buffalo and none on the Islanders.
8:51 left: Miraculous save by Miller on Frans Nielsen who had a tap-in on Matt Moulson's great pass and shot it into Miller's leg. Josh Bailey already had his arms up to celebrate a goal.
8:30 left: Penalties have worn down Buffalo's offensive chances. Shots are 24-13 for the Islanders -- and that means it's 14-2 in this period.
8:02 left: The count is up to 16-2. And that's 10 shots in the last three minutes. The Sabres have been giving them up in bunches lately. Remember the Leafs' 22-shot third in HSBC Arena last week? Fifteen of those were in the last eight minutes.
7:32 left: Freddy Meyer goes for cross-checking for the Isles' first penalty. And that was a cheapie too, just for the record.
6:25 left: DiPietro's best save of the night? A glove grab off Myers via a great cross-ice pass from Stafford. Watching Connolly on the bench. Looked like he got hit in the face on the PP's first faceoff.
5:05 left: Penalty over. Not much action on the PP for the Sabres other than Myers' chance.
4:27 left: There's that man Bergenheim again. Tips home a great feed from Andrew MacDonald to make it 2-0 on the Isles' 28th shot of the night.
4:06 left: The Sabres get right back in it as Connolly's shot from the left circle is tipped in by Mike Grier, his ninth of the season, to make it 2-1. Connolly extends his point streak to 11 games, the longest-current run in the NHL. Ends nearly eight scoreless periods in this building for Buffalo. The other assist went to Tallinder, and it was his 100th NHL point.
2:08 left: Miller stones Blake Comeau on a 2-on-1 that produces the Isles' 30th shot of the game and 20th of the period. Awful giveaway by Montador set up the chance.
End-2nd: It's 2-1 through two and shots are 31-17 for the Islanders (21-6 in that period. Yikes). But Buffalo has been coming on. DiPietro made a great save on Pominville in the final minute to keep his team in front.
15:00 left: The Sabres tested DiPietro early, getting four shots in the first 70 seconds and the first six of the game before Jon Sim got the Islanders' first, a good chance on Miller with 15:45 left. DiPietro is getting a few "Dee-pee, Dee-pee" chants from the crowd, but it's not a huge response to his home return. Really liked the first shift from the Gaustad-Kaleta-Mair line as it created plenty of chances. Hated the first shift from Butler and Rivet, who were running around the whole time in their end.
14:22 left: The Islanders take a 1-0 lead as rookie John Tavares gets his 17th of the year -- and first in 10 games on a rebound of Kyle Okposo's shot on a 2-on-1. Tyler Myers got caught up ice and Tavares potted the rebound ahead of Myers and Pominville.
12:00 left: Sorry for the delayed posts. I must be so flummoxed by this place I forgot to hit "Publish". Cardinal sin of blogging.
10:36 left: Islanders really skating after the goal. Miller had to make a couple great saves on one flurry to keep the hosts from scoring again.
9:16 left: Kennedy goes for hooking to put the Islanders on the power play. No changes on the lines tonight: It was Hecht-Connolly-Pominville, followed by Mair-Gaustad-Kaleta, Vanek-Roy-Stafford and MacArthur-Kennedy-Hecht. Tallinder-Myers, Butler-Rivet and Lydman-Montador on defense. Wonder how close Butler is to being scratched on this trip for Sekera. Butler is a team-worst minus-12 and struggling in his own end. That's a move to watch for the rest of this trip.
5:21 left: Sabres' PK was solid again and Buffalo should be on the PP now. Kaleta drilled Jack Hillen behind the net with a clean hit and Sim then took Kaleta out up ice when he was nowhere near the puck. That was interference for sure and the Buffalo bench was irate. Reputation again hurts Kaleta. Terrible.
4:05 left: MacArthur for tripping behind the Isles net. This team has to stop taking penalties early in games. An epidemic of late.
2:05 left: Isles' PP is worst in the league at home. Maybe Buffalo should keep taking penalties. Only one shot in two chances so far.
End-1st: It remains 1-0 and shots were 11-10 for the Sabres (after they were once 6-0 and 8-1). Lindy Ruff not happy with the officiating. He stormed off the ice barking at Ian Walsh and Chris Lee. Sabres have given up eight unanswered goals in this building in the last seven periods they've played here.