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Halak, Islanders shut out Sabres 3-0

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and the New York Islanders earned a 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.

Halak improved to 37-16-3 this season, and has the franchise’s single-season win record.

Kyle Okposo, Brock Nelson and Nikolay Kulemin scored for New York. Kulemin’s goal, his 14th of the season, came in his 500th game.

Okposo opened the scoring at 6:37 of the first with a power-play goal from the left circle. New York’s right wing gathered John Tavares’ diagonal, cross-ice pass, then waited a moment before sending a shot past Sabres goaltender Andrey Makarov.

In his first NHL start, Makarov stopped 33 of 36 shots for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of five, and have been shut out 12 times this season.

Entering Saturday, Buffalo’s 52 points were the fewest in the league, followed by the Arizona Coyotes’ 54.

Both the Coyotes and Sabres are expected to finish the season with the league’s two worst records. The team that has the league’s worst record can select no lower than second in June’s draft.

The upcoming draft possesses what are widely considered to be generational talents in the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters center Connor McDavid and Boston University freshman center Jack Eichel. McDavid had 120 points in 47 games, while Eichel had 67 in 38.

The Sabres had a power play after a four-minute double minor assessed to New York defenseman Brian Strait for high-sticking Buffalo left winger Nicholas Deslauriers late in the second period.

However, the Sabres only generated three shots on the power play that spanned the end of the second period and start of the third.

Nelson made it 2-0 when he scored his 20th of the season 9:32 into the third. An unassisted goal, the play began when Zach Bogosian’s diagonal, cross-ice clearing pass ricocheted off a stick in the slot and Nelson retrieved the turnover just inside the blue line before sending an unassisted goal from the left faceoff circle.

Kulemin ended the scoring with a tip of Travis Hamonic’s drive with 6:47 left.

NOTES: As part of season-long ceremonies honoring the franchise’s history on Long Island, the Islanders honored their Decades team prior to the game. Ed Westfall, Garry Howatt, Bobby Nystrom, Butch Goring, Ken Morrow, Pierre Turgeon, Steve Webb, Shawn Bates and Eric Cairns were those selected to represent the Islanders teams of the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. … Sabres left wing Matt Moulson, defenseman Mike Weber and goaltender Chad Johnson did not make the trip to Long Island due to illness. … Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski missed his 19th straight game. … Buffalo scratched goaltender Matt Hackett and right wing Jerry D’Amigo. … New York scratched right wings Colin McDonald and Michael Grabner, center Tyler Kennedy, and defensemen Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan.

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