The New York Islanders ended 2018 with a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, as Robin Lehner picked up his fifth consecutive win.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — One way or another, the New York Islanders were going to come out of Monday night’s matchup against the Buffalo Sabres on top.
Right now, things just seem to be breaking their way.
Robin Lehner turned aside 37 of 38 shots, as he cruised to his fifth consecutive victory. He first had to get through the third period, where the Sabres outshot the Islanders 13-3. Kyle Okposo’s goal at 10:14 in the final frame was the first Lehner has allowed in nearly 178 minutes of play.
“This one felt good,” Lehner said following the 3-1 win. “It’s a little weird, I don’t really know how to put it. It was probably the hardest game I have played in my career.” Lehner returned to Buffalo for the first time since March 29, when he was in net for the Sabres.
Lehner has battled alcohol addiction and bipolar disorder, which he opened up about in an article on The Athletic. Since joining the Islanders, he has done a stellar job of keeping the puck out of the net. His 2.21 goals-against average and .926 save percentage ranks first among all goaltenders.
Nick Leddy recorded just his second goal of the season at 2:59 in the second period. The score was 1-0 after 40 minutes of play, before Brock Nelson sniped one to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead. Okposo scored on the power play halfway through the third period, but Ryan Pulock responded with an empty-net goal.
The Islanders are winners of six of their last seven, and are currently in a tight battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
“I think the enthusiasm for the buy-in,” said head coach Barry Trotz, when asked about what has changed for the club in the last few months. “Our structure and commitment… they’re on a mission to be a really good team.”
Islanders forward Mathew Barzal recorded an assist on Leddy’s second-period goal, his ninth point in the last five games. The 21-year-old finishes 2018 with 85 points in 80 games, an impressive feat for a kid his age.
With the win, Trotz passes Al Arbour for sole possession of fourth place on the NHL all-time wins list. He has been credited with turning around the Islanders, especially on defense, where his team has improved from 32nd to 4th in the league in goals-against average.
SABRES Jack Eichel was banged up prior to the game with an undisclosed injury, and left the ice after taking four shifts.
ISLANDERS Valtteri Filppula exited the game in the first period, after taking just one shift. Filppula is day-to-day with an upper body injury.