NEW YORK (AP) Kyle Okposo scored with 6 1/2 minutes remaining, Eric Comrie stopped 27 shots for his second career shutout, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Islanders 2-0 on Saturday.
Jeff Skinner added an empty-net goal to help Buffalo win its second straight after losing the previous four. The Sabres remained six points behind Pittsburgh for the final wild card in the tightly-contested Eastern Conference playoff race after the Penguins beat Washington later Saturday night.
“It was a very mature game, I thought from us,” Okposo said. “We played the game that needed to be played today and we didn’t get frustrated. We just continued to play our game. We didn’t get sucked into trying to make too many plays or taking things that weren’t there. That’s obviously a very frustrating team to play against, they know how to win, they know how to lock it down. We just did a great job staying patient.”
Semyon Varlamov finished with 33 saves for New York, which lost its second straight. The Islanders had won 11 straight at home against the Sabres.
Comrie made a key third-period save with a stellar right-pad stop on Pierre Engvall from in close to keep the game scoreless midway through the final period.
“I found his stick blade early and saw that he is on his backhand,” Comrie said. “He’s either going to try and chip it really fast or pull it. I saw his left shoulder dip and knew he was going to pull it (to his forehand).”
Okposo opened the scoring with 6:29 left as he notched his 10th of the season. Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield failed to clear the puck and Buffalo capitalized. Sabres defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin sent a fluttering puck across the slot and Okposo controlled the pass and fired a wrist shot past Varlamov’s right pad, off the post and in.
Okposo spent the first nine years of his NHL career with the Islanders before signing a seven-year $42 million contract with the Sabres in the summer of 2016. He was named captain of Buffalo ahead of this season.
Skinner tallied an empty-net goal in the final minute to seal the victory for Buffalo.
“You had to be very patient,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “That’s something that hasn’t been in our game a lot this season. We stayed on it, stayed on it and very, very good job and had to be good defensively tonight.”
One of Varlamov’s best saves came early in the third period when he denied Dylan Cozen’s breakaway attempt and the game remained 0-0. The Russian goaltender played well in his first start since March 11.
“Wasn’t good enough tonight,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “One of those games where not a ton of chances either way.” NOTES
Josh Bailey returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the previous four games and skated on the Islanders' top line alongside Anders Lee and Bo Horvat. ... Brock Nelson skated in his 750th NHL game with the Islanders and became the ninth player in franchise history to reach that milestone.
Sabres: Host Montreal on Monday night.
Islanders: Host New Jersey on Monday night.
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