With a little help from Michael Grabner and a friendly goal post, Evgeni Nabokov became the 26th goaltender in NHL history to reach 300 victories.
Nabokov stopped 23 shots and Grabner broke a tie with 3:03 remaining in regulation as the New York Islanders beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum.
“It’s nice to have it in the pocket,” Nabokov said. “I’m glad that it’s behind us, the boys played really well tonight… Hopefully I have many more in front of me.”
Grabner, who hit the crossbar after a steal earlier in the period, fired into a wide-open net after PA Parenteau shoveled the puck to him following a save by Jhonas Enroth on Mark Streit's left-point shot for his 12th goal of the season.
Buffalo's Thomas Vanek was awarded a penalty shot with 1:24 left in regulation after Streit was called for delay of game for knocking the net off its moorings -- though Streit appeared to stumble rather than try to dislodge the net deliberately. Vanek, who was wearing a full cage after being hit in the face by a puck earlier in the game, came in and fired a wrist shot that beat Nabokov cleanly but rang off the left post.
"I had the right play in mind," Vanek said. "I've just got to put it in."
"I would say that the only spot that was open was the post," Nabokov joked about the penalty shot.
Grabner hit the empty net with 30 seconds to go to clinch Nabokov's milestone win.
Nabokov won 293 games with San Jose before joining the Islanders this season after being claimed off waivers last January. Only Martin Brodeur, Nikolai Khabibulin and Roberto Luongo have more wins among active goalies.
"It's a big number, for sure," Nabokov said.
Buffalo, coming off a 3-2 home win against Toronto on Friday, was outplayed for most of the night in the opener of a seven-game road trip. Enroth's 36 saves kept the Sabres (19-20-5) in the game, but they fell to 9-15-5 in their last 29 games, a stretch during which they have not won back-to-back games. Buffalo has lost eight straight road games -- all in regulation.
Matt Moulson put New York ahead 1-0 at 13:10 of the first period, firing his team-leading 21st goal into a half-empty net after John Tavares picked up the rebound of Travis Hamonic's miss off the end boards to the left of Enroth and opted to pass to his linemate instead of shoot. With the assist, Tavares extended his points streak to eight games.
Buffalo went without a shot on goal for the first 11:23 of the second period, but Enroth kept the deficit at one until the Sabres tied it at 14:48 on Patrick Kaleta's deflection of Mike Weber's slap shot. But Kyle Okposo put the Isles back in front just 1:28 later when drove to the net he slammed home Moulson's pass on a 3-on-1 break for his 11th of the season.
Nabokov was his own worst enemy when the Sabres tied the game 42 seconds later. He mishandled the puck behind his own net; Nathan Gerbe picked it up, and Nabokov stopped his shot. But Gerbe got the rebound and fed Derek Roy coming down the slot; Roy fired home his ninth of the season before Nabokov could get himself set again.
The Islanders are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games against the Sabres, including 2-0-0 this season, and have won five of the last six at the Nassau Coliseum. New York sandwiched wins against Detroit and Buffalo around a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia in which it outshot and outplayed the Flyers for most of the night.
"We played extremely well against Philly and didn't get the win," coach Jack Capuano said. "Tonight, we got our chances and we didn't quit."