BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Frans Nielsen couldn’t see the puck floating in the crease. The Buffalo crowd let him know to look harder.
Nielsen and Nikolay Kulemin scored, Thomas Greiss made 42 saves and the New York Islanders beat the Sabres 2-1 on Thursday night.
John Tavares‘ shot trickled by goalie Linus Ullmark but stopped short of the goal line. Nielsen couldn’t see it through a scrum in the crease, but he knew it was there.
“I heard the crowd make that sound where something is loose in there,” Nielsen said. “I started looking and suddenly it was sitting there right on the goal line.”
Nielsen’s goal 9:35 into the second period put New York up 1-0 and snapped a four-game skid without a power-play goal.
Kulemin extended his goal streak to three games 1:07 into the third period.
Those goals backed a sterling early performance from Greiss, who was tested often. Buffalo outshot the Islanders 17-5 during the first period, including 11 shots on goal over three power plays.
“Just battle, try your best and try everything you can to keep the puck out there,” Greiss said. “I just go in the net and see what happens.”
Ryan O'Reilly scored his 15th goal of the season and Linus Ullmark made 31 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres lost their third straight.
O’Reilly cut the deficit with 8:42 left off Jack Eichel‘s needle-threading pass into the slot during a power play, but was left to lament their other missed chances after going 1 for 4 on the power play.
“We had a chance to take the game and run away with it and we didn’t,” O’Reilly said. “I remember coming off after the first, I was frustrated.”
The Sabres kept pressure on Greiss all night, starting with an early power play. With Matt Martin in the box for interference, Greiss made six saves, including three on Rasmus Ristolainen.
A cross-check from Anders Lee prevented Johan Larsson from beating Greiss moments later but did put Buffalo back on the power play. That turned into a two-man advantage after Nielsen also committed a cross-check.
The power plays helped the Sabres build a 15-1 advantage in shots, but Greiss was perfect over that stretch.
“Our goalies give us a chance to win every night and that’s all you can ask for,” Nielsen said. “And tonight he gave us a little more than that. It’s good to see.”
Late in the period, Ullmark stymied Lee’s wrist shot off the rebound of Tavares’ shot.
O’Reilly’s goal was Buffalo’s first power-play score in eight games and snapped a 0 for 19 skid.
New York defenseman Johnny Boychuk was forced from the game when Eichel dodged his late hit, sending the Islander to the boards. He skated off favoring his left arm.
“It looked like he just caught an edge-type thing and went in hard and he’s a big guy,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “Fortunate that it wasn’t his head or his neck and that’s the most important thing.”
NOTES: Sabres center Tyler Ennis missed the game with an upper-body injury suffered on a hit by Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin on Tuesday night. … The Islanders scratched two ex-Sabres in left wing Eric Boulton and right wing Steve Bernier. … The Islanders play at Pittsburgh on Saturday night. … The Sabres host the Red Wings on Saturday.