BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Mikhail Grabovski’s snap shot from the slot midway through the second period stood up as the winner for the New York Islanders, who hung on for a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
Rookie Anders Lee and Colin McDonald also scored for the Islanders, who nearly squandered a 3-0 lead. Travis Hamonic had two assists in helping New York (34-18-1) earn its second win in six games and vault into first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Marcus Foligno had a goal and assist in his first game after missing 19 with a hand injury. Drew Stafford also scored for Buffalo (16-35-3) in a game the Sabres managed just eight shots through two periods, and were outshot 31-10 overall.
Buffalo was coming off a 3-2 win over Dallas on Saturday, and dropped to 2-16 in its past 18.
The Islanders, who lost 2-1 at Boston on Saturday, seemed in full control for the first 31 minutes in building a 3-0 lead on Grabovski’s one-timer from the slot 8:38 into the second period. Hamonic set him up by driving down the right boards and slipping a pass into the middle, where an untouched Grabovski roofed a shot into the top left corner.
His goal came 62 seconds after Lee scored a power-play goal by stuffing a loose puck into the open left side.
Lee had enough time to gather the puck to the left of the net and with goalie Michal Neuvirth looking the other way, after Hamonic’s tip-in attempt at the right post went wide.
The Islanders were nearly unable to protect a three-goal lead for the second consecutive game against Buffalo. The Sabres rallied from a 3-0 third-period deficit in a 4-3 shootout win at Buffalo on Dec. 27.
This time, the Sabres started rallying in a second period in which they scored twice on just three shots on net.
Foligno scored 12:33 in by crashing the net after goalie Jaroslav Halak was unable to control a rebound off Nikita Zadorov’s hard shot from the left wing.
Foligno then set up Stafford a little over 2 minutes later. He chipped the puck at the Islanders blue line to send in Stafford on a breakaway, which he capped by slipping the puck inside the far left post.
The Sabres squandered an opportunity to tie the game in the opening minute of the third period, when they failed to get a shot on net during a 33-second two-man advantage. Defenseman Thomas Hickey played a key role on the penalty kill by blocking Tyler Ennis’ one-timer from the right circle, and then breaking up a pass through the middle.
McDonald, called up from AHL Bridgeport earlier in the day, opened the scoring 16:19 into the game by converting Casey Cizikas’ pass through the middle.
NOTES: The Isles were down three regulars: RW Michael Grabner (upper body), RW Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) and D Calvin de Haan (cut to forehead). All three were hurt in a 2-1 loss at Boston on Saturday, with Grabner placed on injured reserve. … Sabres C Cody Hodgson was a healthy scratch for the second time in five games. … New York’s Frans Nielsen, who assisted on Grabovski’s goal, played in his 500th career game, most among Danish-born players.