Tavares helps Islanders beat Sabres 6-3 in home opener
NEW YORK (AP) — One day after a disappointing road loss in their season opener, John Tavares and the New York Islanders hit their stride at home
Tavares scored twice — the first coming just 1:50 into the game — to lead the Islanders to a 6-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
“We just got after it at the drop of the puck,” Tavares said. “We had a lot of possession. Obviously a good bounce-back from last night to get that first win, especially at home.”
Casey Cizikas had two goals and an assist, and Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier also scored for the Islanders, who lost 5-0 at Columbus the previous night. Jaroslav Halak stopped 26 shots.
“Just the way we came out tonight, there was no hangover from yesterday,” Cizikas said “We know that was unacceptable. We came out tonight with a purpose. We played outstanding. And Jaro stood on his head when we needed him to.”
Evander Kane scored twice and Jack Eichel had a goal and an assist for the Sabres, who lost their opener in a shootout to Montreal on Thursday night and are still seeking their first win under new coach Phil Housley. Robin Lehner gave up four goals on 16 shots and was pulled early in the second. Chad Johnson finished with 15 saves.
The Islanders were 0 for 3 on the power play and Buffalo was 0 for 4, but each team scored two short-handed goals in a wild second period.
New York scored three times — including twice short-handed — in a 1:47 span that gave them a 4-0 lead seven minutes into the period.
Buffalo went on the power play 4:50 in after the Islanders’ Scott Mayfield was whistled for a double-minor when he got tangled up with Rasmus Ristolainen, who also received a penalty.
Tavares got his second of the night as he intercepted a pass by Nathan Beaulieu near Buffalo’s blue line, skated in on Lehner and backhanded it over the goalie’s glove at 5:13.
Cizikas made it 3-0 just 50 seconds later on a slap shot from the left circle. Shortly after the Sabres’ power play ended, Bailey got a pass from Josh Ho-Sang from behind the goal line and wristed it past Lehner to make it 4-0 and end the goalie’s night.
“We obviously don’t put ourselves in a good position to win a hockey game when you give up that many short-handed goals and (in) the succession we gave them up,” Eichel said. “It’s definitely frustrating and it’s something we need to correct.”
Kane got the Sabres on the scoreboard just past the midpoint of the period. With New York on the man advantage, Eichel stole the puck from Halak behind the net and sent a pass from the left corner in front and Kane put it in before Halak could recover.
Kane scored short-handed again on a wraparound with about 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the middle period to pull the Sabres to 4-2.
“They scored two goals on our power play, a couple of bad bounces,” Halak said. “We did a pretty good job tonight. Everyone was excited in the building — fans and players. We wanted to come out and get a good start and we did.”
Beauvillier scored on a rebound after Johnson made several nice stops to restore the Islanders’ three-goal lead at 5:39 of the third.
Eichel’s first of the season made it a two-goal game again with 3:44 remaining.
Buffalo then pulled Johnson for an extra skater with 2 1/2 minutes to go and nearly scored again with a little over a minute left, but Halak smothered the puck before it trickled over the line. The no-goal call stood after a review.
Cizikas added an empty-netter with 26 seconds left.
Tavares’ first-period goal moved him past Bobby Nystrom into sole possession of eighth place on the franchise list with his 236th career goal. His second goal put him one behind Bob Bourne (238) for seventh.
NOTES: Tavares now has 14 goals and 25 points in 24 career games against the Sabres. Jordan Eberle, acquired from Edmonton in the offseason, set up Tavares’ first goal with a nice saucer pass and now has six points in 10 games vs. Buffalo. ... Islanders D Nick Leddy appeared in his 500th career game. ... F Jason Chimera played in his 190th consecutive game — 106 with Washington and the last 84 with the Islanders. ... The teams play two more times this season, back here on Dec. 27 and at Buffalo on Feb. 8. ... The Sabres have now given up three short-handed goals in two games. ... Buffalo F Kyle Okposo, who missed the end of last season while dealing with severe post-concussion symptoms that landed him in a hospital, received a strong ovation from the crowd before the game. Okposo, in his second year with the Sabres, had 139 goals and 230 assists in nine seasons with the Islanders.
Sabres: Host New Jersey on Monday.
Islanders: Host St. Louis on Monday before heading out on a four-game western trip.
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