Montoya stopped 30 shots in a 2-1 win over the Sabres on Tuesday, and the first thing that came to the goalie's mind was how he didn't allow Vanek to get the better of him as happened when the two first met in the 2003 Frozen Four semifinal -- and in this same building, no less.
"Get out of here, I can remember it like it was yesterday," said Montoya, who eight years ago was playing for Michigan and gave up the overtime goal to Vanek in a 3-2 loss to Minnesota. "It's my college hockey nightmare."
This time, Montoya stopped Vanek four times, including a key save coming with the forward parked on the doorstep, and with the Sabres enjoying a two-man power play with 8:02 remaining.
"It all comes around, right?" Montoya said, breaking into a hearty laugh. "It's a big win for this team and it's a big feel-good right now. We've got something going."
Brian Rolston, with the go-ahead goal 9:23 into the third period, and Matt Moulson also scored for New York. Coming off a 3-2 victory at New Jersey on Saturday, the Islanders won their second straight road game after opening the season 0-5-2 away from Long Island. New York (7-11-4) also won consecutive games for the first time since a three-game streak spanning Oct. 10-15.
"We showed some desperation and then Al was there when we needed him to be," coach Jack Capuano said. "We kept coming. We have to play with an attitude that maybe we didn't play with the first couple of weeks."
Jochen Hecht scored for the banged-up Sabres, who have gone 3-4-1 in their past eight and dropped to 6-7-1 at home this season. The Sabres now have the distinction of losing to each of the two conference's worst teams in less than a week after dropping a 5-1 decision at Western Conference cellar-dwelling Columbus on Friday.
Buffalo was missing seven regulars, and lost defenseman Jordan Leopold to an undisclosed upper body injury in the first period.
Coach Lindy Ruff wouldn't provide a definitive update on Leopold's status only to say: "He's hurting. I don't know if he'll miss time or not."
Ruff, however, could easily pinpoint the reason behind the loss: Lack of finish.
"We missed a couple of beauties," he said. "You miss those, they come back to bite you. We didn't show enough composure."
Buffalo went 0 for 4 on the power play, including a two-man advantage that began 11 minutes into the third period and spanned 1:34.
A minute into the two-man power-play, Vanek was stopped on the doorstep by Montoya. And then the goalie recovered in time to lunge forward to get a piece of Derek Roy's shot from the right circle.
"He was sound in the net and he made sure there were no good second opportunities," Roy said. "That's partly our fault. We have to get to the net a little better."
Montoya also came up big by getting out his left pad to stop Jason Pominville from in close midway through the first period.
He stopped 14 of 15 shots he faced in the final period, and had little chance on Hecht's goal, scored two minutes in to tie the game at 1.
Vanek's pass from the left boards bounced off Pominville's skate in front and caromed directly to Hecht in the slot, where he buried a shot inside the right post.
The Islanders didn't let down. Rolston scored off the ensuing face-off after he was robbed of a goal when Buffalo center Luke Adam reached out with his stick to stop a rolling puck at the goal line.
"We'll take whatever we can get right now," Rolston said. "We fought hard and it was a good win."
Prior to the game, the Sabres recalled forward Paul Szczechura from AHL Rochester, a day after he had been demoted. He filled in for Patrick Kaleta, who missed his fourth game with a lower body injury. ... Isles F Jay Pandolfo missed his first game since breaking his foot in a 3-2 win at New Jersey on Saturday. Rookie Nino Niederreiter took his place after missing four games as a healthy scratch. ... Sabres G Ryan Miller is expected to practice Wednesday for the first time in more than two weeks since being sidelined with a concussion/neck injury. He's missed eight games since being bowled over by Boston's Milan Lucic in a 6-2 loss at the Bruins on Nov. 12.