Evgeni Nabokov had a message for himself and the rest of the Islanders in the wake of Wednesday’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Pittsburgh:
We’ve got to make it harder on these guys.
“It’s got to hurt to play,” the veteran netminder told Newsday. “It was too easy.”
The Isles were outgunned early and often in their first postseason appearance since 2007.
Beau Bennett scored just 3:30 into the contest — on the power play — and Nabokov lasted less than two minutes into the second period before he was hooked, finishing with four goals allowed on 15 shots.
Afterward, he said the Isles simply didn’t challenge the Pens enough.
“We have to make it hard on them on every inch of the ice,” he explained. “It’s the only way we can win.”
The Isles won’t be happy with their overall performance, but perhaps most concerned about Nabokov’s play.
Arguably their second most valuable player during the regular season next to leading scorer John Tavares, the 37-year-old Russian was overaggressive and out of position on Jarome Iginla’s first-period shot — which led to Pascal Dupuis’ marker at 13:23.
(Nabokov also appeared shaken after taking an Iginla shot to the mask.)
He then proceeded to allow two goals in a 32-second stretch during the second frame that wiped out any chance of an Isles comeback.
Backup Kevin Poulin was inserted and made his postseason debut, but didn’t look much better. He allowed a bad-angle goal to Tanner Glass and simply isn’t a viable option should Nabokov continue to struggle.
Coaches are quickly getting the hang of this challenge thing.
Following Mike Babcock’s successful challenge in Toronto’s opening-night loss to Montreal on Wednesday, Babcock’s provincial rival — Sens head coach Dave Cameron — got it right as well, successfully reversing Evander Kane‘s would-be equalizer in the third period.
From the league:
At 10:34 of the third period in the Senators/Sabres game, Ottawa requested a Coach’s Challenge to review whether Buffalo was off-side prior to Evander Kane’s goal.
After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Linesman determined that Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons was off-side prior to the goal. According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Linesman, after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Toronto Video Room, determines that one or more Players on the attacking team preceded the puck into the attacking zone prior to the goal being scored and that, as a result, the play should have been stopped for an “Off-side” infraction; where this standard is met, the goal will be disallowed.”
Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Buffalo Sabres.
The clock is re-set to show 9:32 (10:28 elapsed time), when the off-side infraction occurred.
As the league later noted, this was the first coach’s challenge under the offside scenario.
Didn’t take long for Jack Eichel to make his mark at the NHL level.
The No. 2 overall pick at this year’s draft scored his first-ever NHL goal in his first-ever NHL game on Thursday night, cutting Ottawa’s lead to 2-1 in the third period of Buffalo’s season-opener.
Marcus Foligno and another new Sabre, Evander Kane, registered the assists on Eichel’s marker, which came on the power play.