Lightning never strikes the same place twice, Islanders victorious

An all too familiar feeling was in the air Sunday night at the First Niagara Center as the Sabres fell on the scoreboard 3-0 to the New York Islanders halfway through the 2nd period. Down by the same deficit, at the same point in a December 27th game against the Islanders at the Buffalo Sabres arena, the Sabres were able to rally from behind and steal a 4-3 shootout win from the Islanders. Unfortunately, tonight did not have the same ending as the Sabres were able to pull within one goal of the Islanders late in the second period but fell short in the third, handing the Islanders their 34th win of the season. The Islanders win puts them on top of the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and in a position that puts them in a strong running as a major success story this year in the NHL.

Forward Colin McDonald drew first ink on the score sheet late in the first period for the Isles. After a terrible giveaway by Sabres defenseman Tyson Strachan, Islanders forward Casey Cizikas took the puck and fed Colin McDonald with an easy cross-crease tap in past goaltender Michal Neuvirth. It was McDonald’s first goal this season and it came after a short notice call-up from the Isles AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, to replace an injured Cal Clutterbuck.

Islanders forward Colin McDonald (pictured above) scored in his first game with the Islanders after being called up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Sunday morning.  Photo courtesy of Joseph D. Sullivan/Getty Images

Islanders forward Colin McDonald (pictured above) scored in his first game with the Islanders after being called up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Sunday morning. 

Photo courtesy of Joseph D. Sullivan/Getty Images

The Islanders were able to extend their lead by two goals following, in the interest of keeping it appropriate, a terrible Tyler Myer’s slashing penalty on Harry Zolnierczyk. Following a play stop in the Sabres defensive zone, Myers took a swing at Zolnierczyk following a little extra curriculars between the two players. The slash was unwarranted and Myers took a shortened trip to the penalty box as the Islanders power-play unit scored halfway through the penalty to make it 2-0 New York on Anders Lee’s 16th goal of the season.

Riding the momentum of their 36th power-play goal of the season, the Islanders struck again just one minute later to take a 3-0 following a snipe from Mikhail Grabovski. On a faceoff in the Sabres zone, center Frans Nielsen was able to win the puck back to Islander’s defenseman Travis Harmonic and Harmonic carried the puck down into the zone and drew the defense away from Grabovski, opening him up for a perfectly placed shot past Neuvirth. Nielsen, playing in his 500th career NHL game was credited with his 20th assist of the year.

The slew of events prompted Sabres head coach Ted Nolan to call the timeout and regroup his team.

A minute after the timeout, Marcus Foligno sparked the comeback feeling at First Niagara Center. After missing 19 games due to a hand injury, Foligno registered his 6th goal of the season and added an assist to his tally on a beautiful connection on a Drew Stafford goal. Following a turnover at the Islander’s blue line, Foligno took the puck and fed Drew Stafford who went on to dance the puck past goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Foligno was feeling it, especially after the extended break due to his injury.

“It was a month and a bit away from the game. You get hungry and you miss it a lot and you get a little fire in that first shift. You want to be an impact player right away when you come back from an injury and it’s all about staying in the lineup too. That’s my job; to play hard and hit and it was rewarded.”

Marcus Foligno (82) scored a goal and had an assist in his return to the Sabres lineup following a 19 game hiatus due to injury.  Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Gary Wiepert 

Marcus Foligno (82) scored a goal and had an assist in his return to the Sabres lineup following a 19 game hiatus due to injury. 

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Gary Wiepert 

The comeback feelings would be short-lived for Sabres fans though. Following an electric second period where the Sabres were able to capitalize on their scoring chances, the team was only able to muster 3 shots on net in the third, tying a franchise record for lowest shot total in a game (10 shots).

After back-to-back home games, the Sabres welcome the Ottawa Senators to First Niagara Center Tuesday night after a much needed day off. It will be a battle of the bottom of the Atlantic Division as the Ottawa Senators are just one place ahead of the Sabres in the division.