BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Ukko-Pekko Luukkonen stopped 21 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Islanders 4-0 on Thursday night to match a season high with their third straight win.

Victor Olofsson, Dylan Cozens and Zach Benson scored 5:13 apart during a second-period surge as Buffalo outshot the Islanders 29-11 through two periods and 37-21 overall. Benson added an empty-net goal with 4:54 remaining.

Buffalo improved to 8-3-1 in its past 12 and continued inching back into contention. The Sabres pulled three points behind the Islanders and Red Wings, who were tied for the second wild card.

“I think we have confidence. We know we can beat any team. And, we know that every game matters a lot right now,” Cozens said. “If we’re gonna go down, we’re gonna go down with a fight. We’re going to play like we honestly have nothing to lose.”

The Sabres took advantage of an Islanders team closing a four-game road trip, with the first three games played on the West Coast. The challenge for Buffalo now is opening a five-game road swing that begins at Detroit on Saturday.

“I don’t think we need to change much. It’s just trying to keep going what we’re doing right now,” said Luukkonen, who didn’t have an NHL shutout before this season, and now has four in his past 21 starts. “Once you kind of lose sight of the next game and start to think too far ahead, you really don’t do any favors for yourself.”

The Islanders, coming off a 3-0 loss at Los Angeles on Monday, were blanked for the sixth time this season, and haven’t scored in a span of 121:48, dating the final minutes of a 6-1 win at Anaheim on Sunday.

Ilya Sorokin stopped 33 shots in dropping to 8-3-2 in his past 13.

The Islanders have dropped two straight since enjoying a season-best 6-0 run, and at least get to return home to regroup.

“You can’t dwell on it. You can’t feel sorry for yourselves or think that we’re out of it,” Bo Horvat said. “We’re still very much in this thing. I think we definitely have to play a lot better than we did tonight and we’ve got to do that with this next home game.”

Though not tested often, Luukkonen made several key saves. His best came with 8:02 left in the second period, when Luukkonen got across to get a piece of Horvat’s blast from the right circle with the puck trickling just wide of the far post.

The 25-year-old is 10-3-1 in his past 14, in which he’s allowed a combined 28 goals, and 16-8-1 since claiming the starting job in late December.

Olofsson opened the scoring 4:28 into the second period with Buffalo capitalizing on the NHL’s worst-ranked penalty-killing team.

It took just 18 seconds after Anders Lee was penalized for interference for Buffalo to win the faceoff and have JJ Peterka thread a pass through the middle to Olofsson, who one-timed a shot from a bad angle to the right of the net.

Cozens made it 2-0 by converting a rebound in front after Sorokin got his right pad out to stop Connor Clifton’s shot from the right circle. Benson scored by deflecting in Henri Jokiharju’s shot from the blue line, and with teammate Jordan Greenway screening Sorokin.


Islanders: Host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

Sabres: At Detroit on Saturday.


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