Gionta scores twice to lead Sabres over Islanders in OT
NEW YORK (AP) For the Buffalo Sabres, the 2015-16 season was about laying the foundation for the future.
Despite missing the playoffs, the Sabres feel they have attributes which haven't permeated the organization in years.
The Sabres ended on a high note, beating the New York Islanders 4-3 on Saturday night.
Brian Gionta led the way with two goals, including the winner with 2:14 left in overtime.
''The last half of the year is how we want to start next year,'' Gionta said. ''We're a team that's grown a bit, matured. Hopefully we can carry that through.''
Matt Moulson and Evan Rodrigues also scored for the Sabres, who finished the season with a 35-36-11 record. Linus Ullmark made 21 saves.
Scott Mayfield, Alan Quine and John Tavares scored and Christopher Gibson made 22 saves for the Islanders, who are still waiting to learn their playoff opponent.
Despite the loss, the Islanders can still clinch third place in the Metropolitan Division. They trail the New York Rangers by one point for third place. The Rangers finished their regular season by beating the Detroit Red Wings, 3-2 on Saturday.
The Islanders will end their season Sunday night at home against Philadelphia in a game rescheduled because of a snowstorm. The Flyers clinched a playoff berth earlier Saturday by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Should the Islanders win Sunday, they would meet Pittsburgh in the first round. If they lose, they would draw the Atlantic Division champion Florida Panthers.
''We haven't had success against Pittsburgh, and probably should have been 0 and 3 against the Panthers,'' said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. New York was 1-2-1 against the Penguins and went 1-1-1 against Florida during the regular season.
''I just want to make sure for me and this organization, we do the right thing so whoever we play next week that the guys are healthy going into the playoffs and we give them the best chance. That's all we can do,'' Capuano said.
Following two mostly dull periods, the Islanders and Sabres spent the third trading goals.
New York tied the game for the second time in the third period on Tavares' 33rd of the season with 6:26 left in regulation. Until Tavares' goal, it appeared as if the Sabres were headed for their fourth regulation win in their last five games following Gionta's 11th goal of the season which snapped a 2-2 tie.
Quine's first NHL goal evened the game at 2-2 2:07 into the third. With the Islanders shorthanded due to Mayfield's two-minute minor for hooking Matt Moulson, Bracken Kearns set up Quine for the tying tap-in. The assist accounted for Kearns' first NHL point this season, and his sixth career point in 31 games.
''It was good to see a lot of first goals out there,'' Capuano said. ''Kearns and Quine played well for us.''
Quine's shorthander accounted for the only special teams score in the game. New York was 0 for 1 on the power play, while Buffalo went 0 for 2.
The start of the second period was delayed about 10 minutes when the arena lights didn't come on.
Mayfield opened the scoring 2:03 into the second by one-timing a pass from Casey Cizikas for his first NHL goal. Moulson equalized 3:07 later with his eighth of the season, and his third in six games, by tapping a feed from Eichel past Gibson.
Eichel, the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, finished his rookie season with 24 goals and 32 assists for 56 ,points in 81 games. Rodrigues' first NHL goal put the Sabres ahead 2-1 with 2:03 left in the period.
''I thought guys came out and played hard, played to win this one and did a real good job right throughout the lineup,'' Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.
NOTES: According to a published report Saturday, neither the Islanders nor Barclays Center will exercise an opt-out clause which would allow the team to leave the arena. The Islanders moved into the billion-dollar arena in Brooklyn before the 2015-16 season following playing the first 43 years of franchise history in Nassau Coliseum. ... New York called up Adam Pelech, Alan Quine and Bracken Kearns from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport.