Sorokin stops 20 shots for 1st NHL win; Isles blank Sabres
By JOHN WAWROW
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin's eyes lit up and he broke into a big smile in not needing an interpretation when asked his favorite memory of his first NHL win - and a shutout, no less.
"Video review," the Russian-born goalie said. "Canceled it."
There was more to Sorokin's 20-save performance in the Islanders' 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres than an overturned goal on Tuesday night. But the 25-year-old rookie understood how big of a save he got from coach Barry Trotz in having Victor Olofsson's power-play goal negated with 6:59 remaining.
Rather than have the Sabres cut New York's lead to 2-1, the review of the offside challenge clearly showed Buffalo captain Jack Eichel entering the zone before the puck 22 seconds earlier. Buffalo never managed another shot after that, as the Islanders completed a two-game sweep of the Sabres.
Sorokin improved to 1-2-1, and began showing the potential he displayed in establishing himself as one of the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League's top young netminders. The Islanders' 2014 third-round pick won 25 or more games in each of his past four seasons and had a league-leading nine shutouts last year.
His teammates were most happy to contribute by building a 2-0 first-period lead.
"I think the last couple of games, we didn't play great in front of him, and it wasn't really fair to him," defenseman Noah Dobson said. "Just getting a couple of goals early really helped us and obviously, he made a bunch of heckuva saves tonight."
Anders Lee scored twice, including an empty-netter, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau also scored in extending his goal streak to four games.
The Islanders continued what's become an impressive run by improving to 5-0-3 in their past eight, the team's longest streak since a 15-0-2 franchise-record run in the opening two months of the 2019-20 season.
The Sabres were blanked a night after failing to register a shot in the third period of a 3-1 loss to the Islanders.
Buffalo has lost three straight and is 0-2 following a two-week coronavirus-forced pause during which as many as nine players landed on the NHL's COVID-19 list.
Though the Sabres showed more jump in closing with eight shots on net over the final 20 minutes, the outcome was all too familiar.
They gave up the opening goal for the ninth time in 12 games, and trailed 2-0 after the first period for the second consecutive night.
"As we get playing more hockey here, it's important for us to not come in after the first period down one, down two," forward Taylor Hall said. "It's a tough hill to climb, especially in a season where teams are keeping it simple. ... Teams that get leads are going to keep leads and that's a tough way to play."
Hall was stopped by Sorokin on a breakaway 12:21 into the game. Sorokin's best save came with 9:30 remaining, when he kicked out his right pad to stop a one-timer from Sam Reinhart, who was set up alone at the left post.
Lee opened the scoring 4:43 by completing a perfect series of passes. Josh Bailey, at the right boards just outside the blue line, initiated by chipping the puck to hit Dobson in stride. Dobson gained the zone and then fed a pass across to an open Lee, who snapped it in the open left side.
The Islanders then caught the Sabres flat-footed on Pageau's goal some seven minutes later. Ryan Pulock, from his own end, fed Pageau at the Sabres blue line, where he got a quick step on defensmeman Colin Miller. Driving up the left side, Pageau snapped a shot that appeared to tip off Miller's outstretched stick and beat Hutton high on the far side.
The Islanders were blanked twice and have never led in each of Sorokin's previous three starts.
"It's better you start 2-0 than when you start 0-2," Sorokin said in his broken English. "It's good for your feelings."
Bailey had two assists to up his career total to 329 and moving one ahead of Patrick Flatley for seventh on the Islanders' list. Nick Leddy's assist on Pageau's goal was his 176th, tmoving him one ahead of Kenny Jonsson for fourth place on the team's career list among defensemen.
Islanders: LW Anthony Beauvillier returned after missing nine games with a lower body injury, with Leo Komarov being a healthy scratch.
Sabres: The Sabres welcomed back defenseman Jake McCabe to the lineup, while stalwart Rasmus Ristolainen was among five players removed from the COVID list. That leaves center Casey Mittelstadt as Buffalo's lone player on the list. F Rasmus Asplund played after being called up from the taxi squad.
Sabres: Open four-game trip, starting at the Washington Capitals on Thursday
Islanders: Open two-game series at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
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Updated February 16, 2021