Thursday, October 06, 2005

Islanders Drop Opener To Sabres 6-4

In the season opener at Buffalo, the Islanders lost to the Sabres 6-4 in a wildly entertaining game Wednesday night.

With a new roster which featured ex-Sabres Miroslav Satan and Alezei Zhitnik, the Isles fell behind early when J.P. Dumont redirected a Toni Lydman shot for a power play goal 3:11 in with Mike York off for tripping. Lydman and Daniel Briere tallied assists. The goal was a bit fluky because after Dumont's redirection, it took an unlucky bounce off Janne Niinimaa's stick, fooling Rick DiPietro.

The Isles came right back to tie it when rookie Chris Campoli scored his first NHL goal 3:29 later when he put home a Trent Hunter rebound into a vacant net. Hunter and York assisted.

The rest of the first settled down with each team getting 10 shots.

Briere put the Sabres ahead 2-1 in the second when he beat DiPietro on a mini-breakaway going to the backhand at 5:57 unassisted. But after killing off two straight penalties, the Isles once again cameback to tie it at two when Alexei Yashin was credited with his first of the season off a Brent Sopel shot with 6:07 remaining.

But 2:01 later, Brian Campbell put the Sabres ahead for good when he one-timed a Chris Drury pass by DiPietro. Earlier in the play, Drury's diving effort to keep the puck in resulted in the goal. Drury and Teppo Numminen tallied helpers. The Sabres took the 3-2 lead into the locker room.

Early in the third, Maxim Afinogenov put Buffalo up 4-2 when he one-timed rookie Thomas Vanek's feed on an odd-man rush at 2:37. It was Vanek's first NHL point. Jochen Hecht also picked up an assist.

With the Sabres seemingly in control, a weird bounce resulted in an Isles goal. With Zhitnik just looking to dump the puck in from center ice, his shot trickled off a surprised Ryan Miller and into the net, suddenly making it a 4-3 game with 10:23 left. DiPietro was credited with his first assist of the season.

The unpredictable third continued when Briere scored his second of the night 45 seconds later from Dumont making it 5-3. But the Isles weren't done when Jason Blake got his first of the season on a power play from Sopel and York at 13:35.

That's as close as they got on a night when the Islanders never led. Afinogenov sealed the game for Buffalo with a power play empty net goal with 35 seconds remaining.

The Sabres (1-0-0) were two-for-eleven on the power play compared to the Isles' one-for-seven in a game where 18 power plays were awarded due to the NHL's new emphasis on obstruction. The 11 minors the Isles took didn't help them on this night.

Miller stopped 22 of 26 while DiPietro finished with 33 saves.

Islanders (0-1-0) return home to Nassau Coliseum to host the Hurricanes (0-1-0) Saturday night at 7 PM.

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