Barzal shines as Islanders beat Sabres for 4th straight win

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New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov, left, is congratulated by teammates after their 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 6, 2021, in Uniondale, NY. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen).

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Mathew Barzal and Scott Mayfield each had a goal and an assist and the New York Islanders beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 on Saturday for their fourth straight victory.

Semyon Varlamov made 20 saves as the Islanders improved to 9-0-2 at Nassau Coliseum this season and 14-6-4 overall. Cal Clutterbuck, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee also scored.

New York beat Buffalo for the fifth straight time this season, outscoring the Islanders 19-7 in those five meetings. The teams meet again Sunday for their third game in four days in the same venue.

Buffalo dropped its sixth straight game. Sam Reinhart and Jacob Bryson scored for the Sabres, and Carter Hutton made 24 saves.

Bryson put Buffalo in front when he scored his first career goal 33 seconds into his sixth game. The 23-year-old defenseman was selected by the Sabres in the fourth round of the 2017 draft.

But the Islanders responded with four goals in the second, including a memorable play by the speedy Barzal.

The 23-year-old Barzal tied it at 3:51 with his ninth of the season. After outracing and outmuscling Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen for the puck, Barzal hesitated in front of the net and then backhanded the puck between his legs to himself before flicking it past Hutton on his forehand.

“Once I knew I had body position, I took it to the net,” Barzal said. ”I felt like Hutton was down. It was a lot of instinct, just being in the moment and reacting. I’d probably put it in my top two or three.”

Barzal has three goals and four assists in the last six games. He leads the Islanders with 22 points.

“Barzy scoring that goal the way he did, that lit a little bit of a fire for us,” Lee said. “We had a flurry after that and kept it going.”

Brock Nelson made it 2-1 at 5:16, taking a cross-ice pass from Anthony Beauvillier and firing a high shot past Hutton for his seventh goal.

Cal Clutterbuck extended the lead at 8:45, sending a wrist shot past Hutton for his second goal this season.

Mayfield made it 4-1 with his second goal of the season at 15:29, firing another high shot past Hutton.

“Buffalo can create a lot and they came with a purpose today,″ Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. ”You have to be ready for the battle. That goal that Mat scored gave us a real good boost. That was huge for us.”

Reinhart scored his team-best ninth goal 52 seconds into the third on the power play before Lee added his team-leading 11th goal at 2:15.

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger tried to find answers after yet another disappointing finish for his team, which hasn’t won since a 4-1 road victory over the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 23.

“It’s just mental toughness at the moment,” he said. “We lost multiple individual battles that cost us the game. We have to continue to work. There’s no magic fix when you’re in a funk like this. I don’t feel a quit in the group.”

Trotz continued to be pleased by his team’s balanced scoring attack, a trademark since the veteran coach moved behind the Islander bench to start the 2018-19 season.

“I’m all about that, our team is built that way,” Trotz said. ”That’s a Barry Trotz style-win.”

BUSY ISLANDERS

The Islanders are in a stretch in which they are scheduled to play 19 games in 33 days for the first time in franchise history. The Islanders are 5-0-1 thus far in this stretch.

IRON MEN

The Islanders have three players with consecutive game streaks of last 250 games: Lee 292, Brock Nelson 269 and Barzal 256. Lee is nine games from tying Bob Nystrom for the second-longest such streak in Islanders history.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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