The New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres, or AHL injury replacement facsmiles thereof, concluded the regrettable 2013-14 season in Buffalo Sunday. Though they didn't display great hockey, they gave fans 65 minutes plus the tie-breaking breakaway drill. And a bunch of fights.
They played to 3-3 during regulation -- Anders Lee had two goals, one while fighting off three Sabres in front, one on a backhand that should have been stopped -- before Brock Nelson tied it late in the third to force overtime.
No goals in OT, so on to the shootout they went. ECHLer Connor Knapp can always tell his grandchildren that he stopped Frans Nielsen in a shootout. In fact, Nelson was the only shooter to convert -- Ville Leino perfectly closed out a goalless season by missing on the final opportunity -- so the Isles picked up two points and hop Calgary for 26th place overall, pending tonight's result between the Flames and Canucks.
According to the Isles broadcast, this was the fourth time in eight seasons that the Isles' final game was decided by shootout. Appropriate.
Things That Happened, Allegedly
Foam Party? Man, the ice in Buffalo was choppy, the puck bouncing constantly. They have a wee rave like in Bridgeport?
Iron Hickey: Thomas Hickey, a waiver claim one year ago, was the only Islander to play in all 82 games this season.
Nice Pace: For Lee, that's nine goals in 22 NHL games this season, as well as a first star for the game. Not a way to close the year as he heads back to graduate from Notre Dame.
'Back Home to...' Wherever: Peter said to Lee during the second intermission, "You're going back home to Minnesota to graduate, tell us about that..." Well yes home for Lee is Minnesota but the school is Notre Dame (that's in Indiana). But it's all the same if it's not the pride of Canadian small towns, right?
First Fight and a Beauty: John Scott and Justin Johnson did all kinds of chatting during warmup stretches, Scott inching past his side of the red line. So no surprise that Scott gave Johnson -- in his second and probably final NHL game -- his first NHL fight early in the first period.
The surprise may have been that Johnson, who has taken on crazies like Trevor Gillies plenty, felled Scott with a left to the jaw that put Scott right on his seat. Scott brushed it off with a smile afterward, but in the moment he was crying uncle. Johnson, at age 32, got his moment in the sun (and trending on Twitter).
Not Like That Though: Soon after Johnson's fight with Scott, he got a minor penalty for throwing a late hit on Rasmus Ristolainen in which he simply bounced off the Sabre. Poor form, poor timing.
Like That: Brock Nelson later showed what you do to Ristolainen, if'n you're able: Pulled a whipping wrister coming over the blueline to use Ristolainen as a screen and tie the game with just minutes left in the third.
MOAR Fights: Brett Gallant and Zenon Konopka also fought. (Video here.) Konopka mostly just held on though.
The Mayflower: It was just a Butchism slip of the tongue rather than a nickname, but "Scott Mayflower" will stick, I think. At least with me.
Oops: However, it will take more than an inadvertent Butchy nickname to stick with the team. Mayflower, er Mayfield, was victimized on the Sabres' first goal when he reached (and missed) at the Isles blueline when Jamie McBain rushed the length of the ice and around Mayfield to shoot unhindered from the low slot.
First Mayfight Too: "They don't allow fighting in college," Butch said. "Maybe a street brawl or two broke out in St. Louis," said Jiggs. After Mayfield and Nicolas Deslauriers had a run-in in front of the Isles net when Deslauriers had chopped Mayfield down on his way to the net, Mayfield wanted to take matters to a fight. The linesmen wouldn't let them, and threw them both off for coincidentals...
...but you knew this was coming: When the penalties expired, they stepped out of the box and immediately resumed the conflict, with Deslauriers knocking Mayfield's helmet off with the first punch and taking him down soon after. Mayfield was manhandled, but at least he got that rite of passage out of the way.
Pre-Circus Circus: In overtime, did Tyler Ennis try that goofy lacrosse-style behind-the-net carry-it-on-your-bade move on Thomas Hickey? Why, that's worse than a shootout spinorama.
That's one use of a front row seat. pic.twitter.com/F1nYVPfrrh— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) April 13, 2014
So that's it. Eighth place in the Metro (but you knew that for a while). 26th or maybe 27th overall (but you also knew that for a while). Strong play by the youngsters down the stretch, but then that happens when fighting for jobs, etc.
Officially, it's 34-37-11 with 25 regulation/OT wins. A middle-of-the-pack offense, but the lowest save percentage in the league.
Tuesday is the draft lottery, but the "wait till next year" has already begun...