BUFFALO, N.Y. – (AP) — Brock Nelson scored with 3:44 left in regulation to force overtime and then netted the decisive shootout goal to lift the New York Islanders to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night in a season-ending matchup of non-playoff teams.
Anders Lee scored twice for the Islanders (34-37-11), who finished with three straight wins. Anders Nilsson stopped 36 shots through overtime and all three he faced in the shootout. Nilsson clinched the victory by using his glove to sweep away a puck that got away from Ville Leino as he drove to the net.
The Islanders rallied from a 2-0 deficit.
Torrey Mitchell, Jamie McBain and Matt Ellis scored for Buffalo (21-51-10), which had already clinched the NHL’s worst record. The Sabres went 0-6-1 in their final seven games.
Nelson scored the lone shootout goal on the Islanders’ second shot. He snapped a shot that rookie Connor Knapp got a piece of with his stick. But there was enough backspin for the puck to dribble in.
The only thing on the line for the Islanders was where they would finish in the overall standings. The win pushed them into 26th place, two points ahead of Calgary.
There is a Sabres’ tie-in for the Islanders connected to a trade in which Buffalo sent Thomas Vanek to New York for Matt Moulson and a first-round draft pick in one of the next two drafts. The Islanders have until June 1 to determine whether to give up their selection this year or hold off.
The Sabres wrapped up one of the franchise’s worst seasons in 44 years of existence.
With 150 goals scored, Buffalo set the NHL-low in the league’s post-expansion era that began in 1967. The previous low was 151 scored by Tampa Bay in 1997-98.
The Islanders rallied to tie the game 2-2 with a pair of goals by Lee. Nelson then forced overtime late. Using Sabres rookie defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen as a screen, Nelson snapped in a 40-foot shot over Knapp’s left shoulder.
Overtime featured sloppy and entertaining back and forth action.
Islanders defenseman Matt Donovan, driving across the slot, failed to get a shot on net after Knapp stumbled and slid well out of position.
With 2 minutes left, Nilsson was sharp in stopping Ristolainen’s blast from the top of the right circle.
Sabres center Tyler Ennis then blew a chance to score with 20 seconds left on a wraparound attempt, with his shot missing the open right side and instead going off Nilsson’s skate.
The Sabres’ 21 wins are the fewest in an 80-plus-game season, and rank second fewest behind Buffalo’s 16-43-19 finish in 1971-72. Buffalo matched the 21 wins it had in the lockout-shortened season last year. Their 51 regulation losses are the most ever.
Buffalo got off to a 2-13-1 start, and ended with a 2-16-2 skid.
NOTES: Islanders coach Jack Capuano reiterated that franchise forward John Tavares is on track in his recovery from a left knee injury and should be ready to begin training in the summer. Tavares was hurt representing Canada at the Sochi Olympics. … The Sabres were forced to call up G Andrey Makarov, D Mark Pysyk and LW Nicolas Deslauriers from AHL Rochester after the team lost five players to injuries at Boston on Saturday. … Ennis, who has scored a career-best and team-leading 21 goals, was selected the Sabres MVP in a vote of players.