The Buffalo Sabres finished off their regular season this afternoon, losing 4-3 to the New York Islanders, in a shootout.
Connor Knapp, earning his first professional start today and his first point on Jamie McBain‘s goal, stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced and one of the two shots in the shootout. He would face Anders Nilsson opposite him in the Islander net.
McBain got the scoring started, taking a pass from Knapp and sprinting down the ice, around the Islanders defensemen, and pocketing a low shot into the net to get Buffalo out front, 1-0.
Buffalo would continue to apply constant pressure both offensively and defensively, outshooting the Isles 11-6 going into the first intermission.
Going into the second period, Buffalo rolled over their intensity from the first period, and it would only take about 7 and a half minutes to jump further ahead.
Nicholas Deslauriers’ penalty for roughing gave the Islanders a chance to cut the lead in half, and they did it. Anders Lee‘s eighth tally of the year came on an odd bounce of the puck in front of Knapp, resulting in a tip-in from Lee.
Buffalo continued its strong presence all over the ice, leading 21-15 in shots going into the second intermission.
The game took a drastic turn of events only 17 seconds into the third period, when Anders Lee scored a backhand shot to even the game with a whole period left to play.
After some rough play and two minute minors to Nicolas Deslauriers and Scott Mayfield, they pulled a Doug “The Thug” Glatt and Ross “The Boss” Rhea and stepped out of the penalty box, and into the ring. First Niagara Center, and Rick Jeanneret exploded into screams as Deslauriers threw rocket after rocket of punches, undoubtedly winning against Mayfield. Both men were quickly returned to the boxes they just left, were assessed five-for-fighting, and play resumed.
Torrey Mitchell joined the scoring club for Buffalo about halfway through the final period, redirecting a one time shot from Rasmus Ristolainen past Nilsson to regain the lead with just over ten minutes left in the third.
However, the lead wouldn’t last, as Brock Nelson scored the tying goal with just under four minutes remaining in the third, which would end up stifling the Sabres chance of winning just one last game.
Throughout the overtime, Buffalo was solved by Nilsson, despite a hard working, down to the grit effort in the extra five minutes.
In the shootout, Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson and Ville Leino were all solved by Nilsson, preventing them from stealing the game away. Brock Nelson would score the game winner in the shootout, off of a Knapp blocker pad deflection and trickle into the net.
BUFFALO // NEW YORK
T. Ennis X // F. Nielsen X
C. Hodgson X // B. Nelson ✓
V. Leino X // XXXXXXXXX
With the season in the books, Buffalo prepares for a heavy offseason, with a draft and free agency on the horizon. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead for the organization, as rumors can become realities and the future comes to light. Ted Nolan, Tim Murray and the rest of the front office seem to have an idea of what comes next and an idea how to get there.
Ted Nolan, in his presser, said it best, “If there is a city that deserves a championship, this is the one.”
Not only do the Buffalo Sabres say goodbye to a season they probably will not want to have again, but they say goodbye to a memorable voice in Mike Robitaille. After joining the Sabres broadcast crew in 1980, it is a sad day to see a man who I grew up watching and listening to say his goodbyes. On a personal note, Mr. Robitaille, it was an honor to listen to you and to have worked with you during my time with the Buffalo Sabres broadcast team, everyone from SabreNoise wishes you a happy retirement and a sincere thank you for all you have done with the organization.