Nelson, fourth line fuel Islanders to fifth-straight win, more domination over Sabres

Cizikas Islanders goal
Mar 7, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with Islanders center Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

UNIONDALE — Two goals from Brock Nelson and an additional pair from the fourth line — Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck — ensured that the Islanders hang on to continue their domination over the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-2 victory on Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.

Extending their lead atop the Eastern Division, the Islanders completed a three-game sweep of the league-worst Sabres and improving their record this year against them to 6-0 while outscoring them 15-6. It’s the Islanders’ fifth-straight win overall and their seventh in eight outings.

Dating back to last season, the Islanders’ point streak at home was extended to 13-straight games, which is tied for the sixth-longest in franchise history.

“This is our ice, this is our home,” Cizikas said. “We want to put our best game forward… When [an opponent] comes here, they know it’s going to be a dogfight.”

Meanwhile, Ilya Sorokin picked up his fourth-straight win, turning away 24 of 26 Sabres shots.

“He’s fine,” Trotz said of his rookie netminder. “I have no issues with him at all. He made some timely saves.”

After they were held scoreless in a first period that they largely dominated — including half an unimpressive power play — the Islanders reeled off three goals in the second, including what was Cizikas’ game-winner.

“When you’re getting production through your whole lineup, you’re putting the other team on that fine edge because if they know they get shut down… you can hurt them in other areas,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said of his fourth line’s continued success in which they scored five goals in the mini-series against Buffalo.

But it was the first line that struck first 5:13 into the second period and just moments after a holding penalty on Cody Eakin expired.

Anders Lee tipped in a Jordan Eberle centering pass right in front of Jonas Johansson to continue his hot run of form. The Islanders’ captain extended his point streak to four-straight games while he’s potted three goals during that stretch.

For Eberle, it was his 300th career assist.

Just 1:02 later, Nelson struck to double the Islanders’ lead, sniping a wrist shot for his second goal in his many days.

“We did some good things before with some less results,” Nelson said as he begins to break out of a scoring slump. “We got a couple good looks and it was nice to get a few that went in.”

While the Islanders’ offense yet again needed to warm up against Buffalo — going scoreless in the first period — their patented defense limited a Sabres team that had a nightmare getting shots through New York’s defense.

In the three-game set at Nassau Coliseum, the Sabres did not have 10 or more shots on goal in a single period in eight out of nine frames.

With 3:04 to go in the second period, Jean-Gabriel Pageau picked up his 200th-career point, streaking down the left wing to tee up Cizikas for an easy tap-in to make it 3-0.

Cizikas extended his point streak to three games with a goal and three helpers during that span.

The Sabres broke Sorokin’s bid of a third shutout this season 5:41 into the third period when gritty play beneath the Islanders’ goal represented the veteran forward with the chance to pop a backhander into the roof of the net.

Four minutes later, Colin Miller made it a one-goal game when he snapped a wrister past Sorokin as the Islanders failed to transition from a failed scoring opportunity by the fourth line.

“They were playing hard and they capitalized on their chances,” Cizikas said. “We bent, but we didn’t break. That was a full team effort in the third.”

Clutterbuck eased Islanders nerves and stymied the Sabres’ charge just over three minutes after Miller’s tally, weaving in on Johansson after wrangling in a bouncing, dumped-in puck, and lifting a backhander over the netminder.

“It was a big goal,” Clutterbuck said. “I just saw [Matt Martin] flip a puck out and make a really good play under pressure. The puck took a bounce and I was fortunate enough to change directions… It worked out.”

Nelson put the cherry on top of yet another Islanders win with an empty netter with two minutes to go.