BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Getting stellar goaltending from Semyon Varlamov, the New York Islanders needed just one lucky bounce to continue their longest win streak in 30 years.
Varlamov made 27 saves and Derick Brassard scored in the first period as the Islanders beat the Buffalo Sabres 1-0 on Saturday night for their ninth straight win.
“Winning is lots of fun,” Varlamov said following his first shutout victory since joining the Islanders in free agency during the offseason. “We did a lot of good things today. The team battled all game. It wasn’t an easy one.”
After a 1-3 start to the season, the Islanders have won nine straight for the third time in franchise history. Their most recent 9-0-0 run came from Dec. 31, 1989 to Jan. 19, 1990. The franchise record is 15 consecutive wins during the 1981-82 season.
“It’s a full commitment from everyone,” Brassard said. “It’s fun to see. Everyone is chipping in in many ways.”
Brassard chipped one in to extend his goal-scoring streak to five games and give the Islanders an early lead. Receiving a pass from Anthony Beauvillier along the end boards, Brassard backhanded the puck toward the front of the net, and it bounced in off the back of Carter Hutton’s right leg 5:19 into the first period.
“I got lucky,” Brassard said. “I’ll take it. Anything for the team. It ended up being the winning goal.”
The Sabres lost in regulation at home for the first time this season and are on a three-game skid entering a trip to Sweden next week for two games as part of the NHL Global Series. After starting the season 8-1-1, Buffalo has lost four of five.
“It’s painful right now,” coach Ralph Krueger said following the Sabres’ first shutout loss of the season. “But I think there’s a lot of things there that we can continue to build on moving to the next games.”
Hutton stopped 20 shots to keep the Sabres in the game. Buffalo was coming off a 6-1 loss at Washington on Friday night during which Linus Ullmark allowed four goals in the first 12 minutes.
Captain Jack Eichel said the Sabres gave a better effort following “maybe our worst game of the year.”
“I thought we came back tonight and we competed hard,” Eichel said. “They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league for a reason. But we had our chances.”
The Sabres’ attack continued to struggle against Varlamov, who has won five straight following two losses alternating starts in goal with Thomas Greiss.
“Our goalie was the best player on the ice tonight,” Brassard said.
The Islanders relied on their defense and goaltending after producing at least two goals in regulation during their previous eight wins. They have outscored opponents 30-16 during their win streak.
“It’s not easy to play against us,” Brassard said. “We make it hard on the opposition.”
NOTES: The Islanders assigned F Andrew Ladd to the minors on Saturday to work on his conditioning as he nears a return from a torn ACL he suffered in March. … Sabres D Brandon Montour made his season debut after injuring his hand during the preseason. He replaced Marco Scandella in the lineup. … F Steve Vesey (upper body) returned after missing three games and skated on the Sabres’ top line. … Islanders F Cal Clutterbuck played in his 800th NHL game. … Rene Robert, Jim Schoenfeld and Danny Gare were among a group of more than 20 players from Buffalo’s 1970s teams honored during a pregame ceremony as part of the franchise’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Islanders: Will go for their 10th straight win on Tuesday when they host the Ottawa Senators, opening a four-game homestand.
Sabres: Travel to Stockholm to face the Lightning on Friday and Saturday as part of the NHL Global Series.
More AP NHL: and