3 Takeaways From Islanders 3-2 Win vs Sabres

The New York Islanders arguably just had their biggest win of the season. Building off a statement 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, they defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2, allowing them to beat two teams in the Eastern Conference that are fighting for a playoff spot and to pass them in the standings.

The game was a clash of styles. The Sabres are an offensive team, averaging 3.71 goals per game, and typically win high-scoring contests, while the Islanders win with defense. This game reflected why the Islanders are a playoff team and why the Sabres might come up short.

Islanders’ Defense Steps Up

The Sabres have one of the best offenses in the league, led by Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner, and Dylan Cozens, who can overwhelm any defense in the league. However, the Islanders not only limited the Sabres’ offense but controlled the game, making them look hapless and limiting them to two goals.

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Granted, there was a defensive breakdown in the second period that led to the Cozens goal. Likewise, there was a goal in the third period that zipped through traffic and was deflected into the back of the net. Other than that, the defense controlled the game. The Islanders only allowed 24 shots on goal, and the defensive unit, which has struggled at times this season, led the team to a 3-2 victory.

Bailey’s Big Night

Josh Bailey has played a limited role this season, moving out of the top six and averaging 15:22 of ice time, the lowest since 2009-10. He has lost a step as a passer and an offensive threat but is still a reliable bottom-six forward.

Josh Bailey New York Islanders
Josh Bailey, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He scored the Islanders’ second goal of the game, collecting a rebound near the net and tapping it in, and then assisted on the game-winning goal. His goal showed his instincts are still strong and that he can help elevate the Islanders’ offense even at this point of his career. Against the Sabres, he showed why he belongs in the lineup, creating offense when the team needs it, especially in the third period of a close game.

Cizikas Snaps Scoring Drought

With only five goals this season, Casey Cizikas hasn’t been a goal scorer and rarely finds shots or scoring opportunities near the net. However, he scored a big-time goal in this game, putting the Islanders on the board and starting a three-goal performance. He crashed the net and found a quick pass from Hudson Fasching before poking the puck into the back of the net.

Casey Cizikas New York Islanders
Casey Cizikas, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It was his first goal since the 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 14, snapping a 21-game scoring drought. In close, low-scoring games (like the one against the Sabres), the Islanders need their depth to show up and find goals from the bottom six. Cizikas was the difference-maker in this game, providing a much-needed offensive spark with his second-period goal.

Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Win

  • Goaltender Ilya Sorokin didn’t have a great night, but he stepped up to help fuel the Islanders’ victory. He saved 22 of 24 shots and was especially strong in the third period.
  • Defenseman Alexander Romanov had two assists in the game. He hasn’t been a threat in the offensive zone this season, but his shot from the point is valuable, and he should be able to help the offense moving forward.

What’s Next for the Islanders

The Islanders face the Pittsburgh Penguins for the fourth and final time this season on Mar. 9. They won the first three match-ups, but the Penguins are coming off a 5-4 comeback overtime win against the Columbus Blue Jackets and are similarly fighting for a wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.

The past two games have been a reminder that the Islanders are a playoff team and capable of beating the better teams in the conference. However, the schedule won’t get any easier, and the upcoming games will determine if the team can hold on and compete for the Stanley Cup.

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