The New York Islanders have everything working right now as demonstrated by the 4-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night.
The game never felt like it was ever in doubt, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said after Mathew Barzal scored three goals in the victory at Toronto.
The Buffalo Sabres, on the other hand, cannot seem to get winning results even when they play well as they did Saturday in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins.
“I thought we played a very strong 60 minutes and overtime,” Sabres head coach Phil Housley said after the Bruins tied the game at 17:31 of the third period on a power play and won in overtime.
The Islanders, winners of three in a row and six of their past seven games, will try to keep it going Monday when they visit the Sabres, who have lost three of their past four.
“I liked the fact that we stayed with the game plan for the full 60 minutes,” Trotz said after his team dominated Toronto and former Islanders captain John Tavares in his first game against his former team. “We didn’t really deviate and that to me was real good growth. We have to continue to do that. We knew we were up against a real good hockey team and we had to do things the right way and we did.”
“I can’t fault our effort,” Housley said after Sean Kuraly’s overtime winner for Boston. “We attacked the game. It’s going to be like this throughout the rest of the season where it’s going to be tight. I thought we felt really comfortable in the situation.”
This will be the first meeting between the teams this season.
Barzal, who also scored two goals in a win over the Ottawa Senators Friday, scored a natural hat trick in a span of just fewer than eight minutes in the second period on Saturday. He has 10 goals on the season. Robin Lehner made 36 saves for his second shutout of the season and 10th of his career.
“You could tell before the game that the guys were dialed in,” Barzal said. “They were ready to go. We knew what was at stake against one of the top teams in the league. If we play like that, this team can be pretty special.”
Barzal has six goals and two assists on his four-game point streak.
“He’s shooting the puck,” Lehner said. “He’s one of the most skilled players in the league and one of the fastest. Just seeing him shooting more in practice, he’s starting to trust his shot and have confidence in his shot. He has a good shot. He just has to keep shooting and he’ll score a lot of goals.”
Buffalo is 4-6-4 since its 10-game winning streak between Nov. 8-27.
The Sabres are struggling to score goals.
Jack Eichel has one goal in five games and Jeff Skinner has one in four and they are the team’s top two scorers. Jason Pominville has no points in 12 games and no goals in 14, Conor Sheary has one goal in 19 games, Casey Mittelstadt has one goal in 16 games and no points in seven and Tage Thompson has no goals and one point in 13 games.
Eichel missed practice Sunday for what Housley termed as “maintenance” and is expected to play Monday. Goaltender Linus Ullmark returned to practice after being unavailable Saturday because of illness. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood was returned to Rochester of the American Hockey League.
Right winger Kyle Okposo was used on the fourth line Sunday with Johan Larsson and Remi Elie. Okposo, a former Islander, has not scored a goal in 21 games.
“Everybody knows the production, right,” Housley told reporters Sunday. “You look at the statistics, but I think [Okposo] just has to get back to work. I wouldn’t read too much into the lines. We’re just trying to create more balance, and I think [Larsson] has played terrific hockey.”