Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller has been beatable.
Unfortunately for the opposition, he gets that way only once a night.
For the third game in a row, Miller allowed a third-period goal and nothing more in a 3-1 Sabres victory over the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon. Miller made 29 saves, a few in clutch situations, to help the Sabres win their fourth straight in HSBC Arena and spoil Ted Nolan's homecoming.
The Sabres had reason to expect a low-scoring encounter. The Islanders had been blanked in back-to-back games, but goalie Rick DiPietro had allowed only three goals in his previous four games.
"But the way Ryan was playing," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, "they would have to hope to get two [goals], I would think."
Paul Gaustad scored on Buffalo's first power play, and Maxim Afinogenov brought the 18,690 fans to their feet with a wonderful goal in the second. Jochen Hecht scored into an empty net with 16 seconds left.
Miller extended the Islanders' scoring drought to a franchise-record 186 minutes, 31 seconds before Jason Blake finally broke through with 11:41 to go.
"I've won every one," Miller said of allowing the late goals. His lone shutout was against the Isles on Oct. 26. "The boys have done a great job of making sure we got more goals than they do. We'll save [shutouts] for later."
DiPietro, who made 31 saves, said the Isles wanted to win for their coach. Nolan was out of the NHL nine years after winning the Northeast Division and a Jack Adams Award with the Sabres.
"He's been nothing but great for us, so we obviously wanted to go out there and put up the good effort and get him the win," DiPietro said.
The Sabres ran their streak of successful penalty kills to 18 by snuffing three power plays. Gaustad's goal gave the Sabres a man-advantage goal in four consecutive games.
Gaustad opened the scoring 8:06 into the game. Brian Campbell took a wrist shot from the blue line. Gaustad whapped in the rebound to end a 17-game goal drought.
"Soupy's shot got through to the goaltender, and he couldn't handle it," Gaustad said. "He just plopped down and it came right there on my stick."
About four minutes later, Miller kept the Islanders off the scoreboard with a circus save. Isles winger Aaron Asham clanged the crossbar with a long slapper. The hard rebound went directly to Richard Park in the left circle for a quick shot, but Miller made like Graig Nettles with a diving catch.
"Everybody's got to realize how difficult that is," Ruff said. "First, to recognize where it's gone. I mean, as a goaltender you really have no idea off the crossbar where the puck has gone.
"For him to pick it up and then at least battle to get some position on the next shot was a heck of an awareness on that play."
DiPietro made a sensational pad save to reject Thomas Vanek at the top of the crease, kicking out his lower leg at the last minute to keep the puck on the goal line 4:48 into the second period.
Afinogenov gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead with 8:33 remaining. Derek Roy's long pass sent him on his way. Afinogenov, guarded by Isles defenseman Brendan Witt, dashed into the right circle and stopped on a ruble. Witt hit the ice and slid off, giving Afinogenov a clear look. He wired his shot into the right corner for his 18th goal.
The Isles buzzed in the final minutes and nearly tied the score. Former Sabres winger Miroslav Satan made a cross-crease pass that would have given center Randy Robitaille an open net had the puck not zipped through his skates.
"Offense is like the weather," Nolan said. "The last three games we dried up a little bit offensively, but if you look at the last five games we've given up only one even-strength goal. That's not too bad."
>Sabres 3, Islanders 1
Slap shots: Nolan loses in coaching return to Buffalo . . . Gaustad, Afinogenov, Hecht score for Sabres . . . Isles end franchise record scoring drought at 186 minutes, 31 seconds.
Fast fact: Sabres have killed 18 straight power plays.
Next game: Ottawa Senators, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Scotiabank Place