BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres’ slow start continued on the road Saturday night with a 3-2 loss against the New York Islanders.
Following a 5-1 loss to the Rangers in Thursday night’s home opener, Buffalo is 0-2-0 to start the season for the first time in three years under coach Don Granato, and fifth time in 13 seasons last making the playoffs.
Casey Mittelstadt had a goal and an assist, and rookie Zach Benson tallied two assists to become the youngest Sabre on the scoresheet in 35 years. Devon Levi started in goal again for the Buffalo, making 26 saves in the loss.
Casey Cizikas deflected the winning goal past Levi with 6:20 left in third, after Mittelstadt tied it up with backhand early in the final period. The Sabres challenged Cizikas’ goal believing Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson entered the zone offside prior to the goal, but the score stood.
Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri scored in the first period for the Islanders, who won their season opener at home for the first time since 1995. Ilya Sorokin made 26 saves, half of those coming in the second period when the Sabres had 14 shots on goal.
Jordan Greenway scored his first goal of the season, and fifth in 19 games with the Sabres, fed in the slot by Mittelstadt, at 4:15 into the second period. It was Greenway’s first career goal against the Islanders.
“We looked a lot more like ourselves, more instances of speed and attack,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “Just before they scored that winning goal we hit two goal posts so the game could have gone the other way. We all have our own opinions on the final goal.”
Coming of age
Benson’s forechecking got him a secondary assist on Greenway’s goal, and his tenacity led to Mittelstadt’s goal, when Benson met Rasmus’ Dahlin’s long entry pass at the back wall and kicked the puck to his centerman in front of the net.
“He obviously had an awesome camp, just the way he see’s the ice is pretty incredible for such a young player in the NHL,” Sabres defenseman Connor Clifton said of Benson. “He’s been great, he’s earned his spot and he played great tonight. That line was by far our best.”
Drafted 13th overall by Buffalo in the most recent draft, Benson, at 18 years, five months, is the youngest skater to play for the Sabres since Turgeon, the No. 1 overall pick in 1987. Turgeon had 12 multi-point games as an 18-year-old, one fewer than Phil Housley’s team record after being picked sixth overall in 1982.
Buffalo had barely a minute of power play time, 38 seconds after a 4-on-4 shortly following the unsuccessful challenge, and 24 seconds at the very end of regulation. The Sabres have not yet scored on the power play this season … The top line of Jeff Skinner, Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch has not factored on a goal yet for the Sabres. Neither has the fourth line, with captain Kyle Okposo and alternate Zemgus Girgensons.
Buffalo beings a four-game homestand Tuesday against Tampa Bay.
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.