UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo scored first-period goals, and the New York Islanders went on to a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
The Islanders (26-34-9) earned their 10th home win (10-17-8), and did it in a rare matchup against an opponent they are ahead of in the standings.
Backup goalie Anders Nilsson (3-4-2) earned the win in his 15th NHL game. He lost his shutout bid 56 seconds into the third when Tyler Ennis scored a power-play goal.
But the Islanders’ two-goal lead was restored 39 seconds later when Ryan Strome scored his fourth goal. Cal Clutterbuck added an empty-netter with 2:13 remaining.
Nilsson made 33 saves while subbing for No. 1 netminder Evgeni Nabokov, who lost 4-3 to San Jose on Friday.
Jhonas Enroth stopped 34 shots for Buffalo.
Earlier in this disappointing season, the Islanders and Sabres swapped star forwards Matt Moulson and Thomas Vanek, but both impending free agents have both been dealt elsewhere since.
Fans periodically voiced loud chants of “Snow Must Go,” directed toward Islanders general manager Garth Snow.
Despite being outshot 14-10 and short-handed three times in the first period, the Islanders took a 2-0 lead.
Nielsen put New York in front before the game’s first stoppage, and Okposo doubled the lead with a power-play goal.
After holding his stick in the air waiting to fire, Nielsen unleashed a hard drive from the left circle that struck Enroth’s glove and found its way in at 3:31 for his 22nd goal.
Okposo made it 2-0 with 2:36 left when he corralled a pass from Brock Nelson in the slot and whipped a shot past Enroth 1:11 into Henrik Tallinder’s holding penalty.
It was Okposo’s team-leading 27th goal and 69th point. He also helped set up Nielsen’s goal, tying him with injured captain John Tavares with a club-best 42 assists.
New York nearly had a third goal, but Enroth made a fine stop against Josh Bailey at the left post when he tried to follow up on Nelson’s wraparound attempt.
Buffalo mustered five shots during its three failed power plays in the first period. The only advantage the Sabres gave to the Islanders in the frame proved costly when Okposo scored on New York’s only shot.
The trend reversed in the second period when New York had a 14-10 shots edge, but neither team scored.
Nilsson’s first scare came when he stopped a shot by Matt D’Agostini 2:13 into the second period and then had to reach behind him after the puck slid through him and trickled toward the open net.
The Sabres nearly got on the board in the final two seconds of the middle frame when Drew Stafford ripped a shot off a faceoff win in the Islanders’ end during a Buffalo power play, but Nilsson was there to block it.
Ennis scored his 18th goal during that advantage.
NOTES: Okposo is one goal shy of 100 in the NHL. … The Sabres recalled D Rasmus Ristolainen from Rochester (AHL) due to the absence of D Tyler Myers (arm), who will also likely miss Sunday’s home game against Montreal. … New York agreed to terms with 2012 draft pick D Adam Pelech on a three-year, entry-level contract.