Thomas Vanek was a mess. He got hit in the face with a puck Saturday night, and he stood in the Buffalo Sabres' dressing room with a huge lump near his right eye, the redness seemingly growing by the minute.
Still, as he talked about missing a tying penalty shot with just 1:24 to play, it seemed the pain was worse inside.
The Sabres found yet another way to avoid a winning streak, this time giving up two goals in the final 3:03 to drop a 4-2 decision to the New York Islanders. Michael Grabner scored both late goals, but Vanek had a chance to erase the first one.
Shortly after Grabner gave the Isles a 3-2 lead, the officials awarded a penalty shot to Buffalo because New York defenseman Mark Streit knocked his net off the moorings. Vanek had the puck when the whistle blew. Despite a full, wire cage covering his injury, he told coach Lindy Ruff he wanted the puck for the free breakaway, too.
"Lindy asked me how my vision was," Vanek said, "and I felt like I was good to go. I could score."
He nearly did. He beat Isles goaltender Evgeni Nabokov with a close-range shot, but the puck rang the post. Grabner found an empty net with 30 seconds left, Nabokov skated home with his 300th win, and the Sabres boarded their plane for Detroit as losers for the 10th time in 13 games.
"I had the right play in mind," Vanek said. "I've just got to put it in."
The Sabres, who beat Toronto on Friday, haven't won back-to-back games since Nov. 11.
"It's a tough one," said Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth, who made 36 saves. "We weren't really ready from the start. We didn't play as good as we can or as good as we have to do on the road."
The Sabres also lost another defenseman. Robyn Regehr left with an upper-body injury with 14:11 to play, just seconds after he took a wrist shot.
"He's going to miss a little bit of time," Ruff said.
Sabres, Vanek feel the sting of latest defeat to Islanders
Buffalo News | Jan 15