Being it is the final regular season game, it is important to send the Islanders into the playoffs with good vibrations. So I will do my best to make this game recap as positive as possible.
The Islanders smartly came out of the gates slow, choosing instead to preserve their energy for the later periods. That decision lead to a decidedly pro-Sabres first period in almost every area possible.
The best scoring chance came from Brian Flynn, who broke in alone on Evgeni Nabokov. Nabby managed to stack the pads and get a piece of Flynn's shot, deftly directing the puck off the post and denying Buffalo a goal.
The Islanders didn't want to waste their scoring chances, choosing to only create one good scoring situation in the period. During a power play, Matt Moulson found himself with a golden opportunity to slam the puck home into an open net, but he instead chose to skillfully shank the shot.
The second period was a lot more of the same from the Islanders, who obviously realized their efforts would be much better suited to be saved for the third. Seeing how Nabokov managed to stymie Flynn in the first, the Islanders decided to turn the puck over and let Nabby get another crack at him.
Nabokov figured it would be good for the playoffs if his team could get some "comeback from a deficit" practice in, and watched Flynn's slapshot sail over his blocker, giving the Sabres a 1-0 lead.
The Sabres were soon after awarded a power play, and during it Thomas Hickey leveled Tyler Ennis with a clean check. Drew Stafford allegedly didn't agree with the hit and retaliated and roughed up Hickey. The Isles still controlled the puck and Ennis threw a temper tantrum and jumped Hickey from behind, also drawing a roughing penalty.
With 1:07 of a 4-on-3 power play, and then 53 seconds of 5-on-3, the Islanders decided they needed to work on their defensive clear chasing, allowing the Sabres to continually send the puck the length of the ice.
When the third period came around, the Islanders had all of their stored up energy, and they used some of it to take advantage of a Ryan Miller mistake. Miller, in beautiful Rick DiPietro fashion, went out to play an Andrew "Mack"Donald dump in, but Keith Aucoin managed to get it first and slipped the puck through Miller's wickets and tied the game up 1-1.
The Isles definitely did show more jump and pressure in the third than they had in the other two periods, but being this regular season was so good to them, they decided they didn't want it to end, taking the game into overtime.
Aucoin wasn't done with his contributions, as he drew a hooking penalty on Kevin Porter in overtime. The Islanders put pressure on Miller and the Sabres, but knowing some more shootout experience would be invaluable, were careful not to wrinkle the twine.
Vanek led off the shootout by beating Nabokov, and Miller promptly denied Frans Nielsen. After a few more saves, John Tavares was left to try and once again gain the Islanders an important second point in the standings. But Miller, playing in his 500th NHL game, stopped Tavares and gave Buffalo a 2-1 win.
But at least the Islanders salvaged one point, for the moment leapfrogging them back into the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference. So now we all must sit and wait to see how the Rangers fair tomorrow and Ottawa does against both Philadelphia and Boston.
-Michael Grabner had another breakaway, but like the majority of his breakaways, he failed to get enough lift on the shot and Miller stopped it. The guy is so fast and good at getting scoring opportunities, I feel like if he can work on getting his shot high off the break, he'd be even better.
-It's a good thing Jack Capuano felt it necessary to dress Matt Carkner and Eric Boulton again. Boulton and John Scott got 10 minute misconducts at the end of the first period for what I could only imagine was the offense of being terrible hockey players. Scott and Carkner later in the second period wrestled each other. Scott hit Carkner with a DDT but Carkner finished Scott off with a flying elbow from the top ropes and got the three count.
-Nabokov was on his game tonight. He stopped Flynn on that breakaway and stoned Thomas Vanek on a breakaway of his own early in the third. He also looked good in the shootout, giving up only the Vanek goal. A few days off obviously did the old man good.
-The Islanders finished the season with a 14-7-3 road record. It was their first winning road record since the 2006-07 season, and their best road record since well, I don't know. I could only find Home/Road record splits through 1987-88 and the Isles didn't have one road record as good as this season, percentage wise.