Isles beat Sabres; Trotz moves into 4th on all-time win list
By JONAH BRONSTEIN
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Robin Lehner made an emotional return to Buffalo and led the Islanders to a milestone victory for New York coach Barry Trotz.
Lehner made 39 saves against his former team as the Islanders beat the Sabres 3-1 on Monday night.
New York's fourth straight victory moved Trotz into fourth place on the NHL's all-time win list with 783, moving him ahead of Islanders franchise legend Al Arbour.
"You get into coaching, you talk about certain names that you have respect for," Trotz said before Monday's game. "When you hear someone say, `Hey, you and Al Arbour,' I feel a little out of place. It's a total honor to be even mentioned."
Trotz said the Islanders players understood the significance of his passing Arbour, but the team was more proud of getting a win for Lehner in his first game back in Buffalo since March 29.
Lehner left that game against Detroit because of a panic attack and was subsequently treated for alcohol addiction and also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADHD and PTSD. He signed with the Islanders in July after three seasons with the Sabres.
"This one felt good," Lehner said. "It was probably the hardest game I've played in my career. I don't know why. It's just a really weird feeling for me. I struggled mentality a little bit in the beginning of the game. It just felt weird. Somehow just got in the flow."
Lehner continued his hot play, winning his fourth start in a row and allowing one goal or fewer in regulation for the seventh time in eight games.
"He was unbelievable," defenseman Nick Leddy said. "He made some extremely timely saves and he was our best player."
The Sabres played most of the game without captain Jack Eichel, who went to the dressing room late in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return.
Eichel, a game-time decision by coach Phil Housley, started and played four shifts totaling 2:42. He sat out practice on Sunday.
"I don't think he's going to be out long," Housley said.
Leddy gave the Islanders the lead 2:30 into the second period. Leo Komarov won a face-off in the offensive zone and Mathew Barzal sent the puck back to Leddy, who unleashed a slap shot from the left point that sailed through traffic and over Hutton's shoulder into the far corner of the net.
Nelson made it 2-0 in the opening minutes of the third period, scoring on a shot from the slot that bounced out of Hutton's glove and into the net.
The Sabres made a push in the third period, ending Lehner's shutout bid and nearly coming back from the two-goal deficit.
Okposo snapped a 21-game goal drought on a power play with 9:46 remaining. While Barzal served a slashing penalty, Okposo beat Lehner with a wrist shot from the right circle.
Buffalo was unable to take advantage of an opportunity to tie the game on a power play that began with 6:53 left in the period.
Lehner recorded an assist on Pulock's empty-net goal with 31.4 seconds remaining.
Trotz's milestone victory comes in his first season with the Islanders. After coaching the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup last season, Trotz resigned following a contract dispute. He led the Capitals to 205 regular-season victories in four years and had 557 wins in 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators.
Arbour tallied 740 of his 782 coaching victories during three stints with the Islanders, from 1973-86, 1988-94 and for one game during the 2007-08 season. New York won four consecutive Stanley Cups (1980-83) under Arbour. He began his coaching career with the St. Louis Blues.
NOTES: Lehner played in Buffalo for the first time since signing with the Islanders in free agency following three seasons as the Sabres' top goaltender. He received a mix of cheers and boos when acknowledged on the video scoreboard early in the first period. . Barzal extended his points streak to five games. He has six goals and three assists in that stretch. . Sabres LW C.J. Smith made his season debut after being called up from the minors earlier Monday.
Islanders: Will look to match their season-long win streak at home against Chicago on Thursday.
Sabres: Host Panthers on Thursday.
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Updated December 31, 2018