Page last updated on Sun Dec 21 18:14:55 EST 2014
04/13/2014 9:51 PM EDT
Nelson seals Isles' 4-3 SO win over Sabres

AP Sports Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano had
no choice but to have faith in younger players after star
forward John Tavares was lost to a season-ending knee injury.

Brock Nelson and fellow rookies delivered down the stretch and
provided a glimpse at a brighter future for the Islanders, who
head into the offseason after missing the playoffs for the sixth
time in seven years.

Nelson scored with 3:44 remaining to force overtime, and then
netted the lone shootout goal in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo
Sabres on Sunday night in a season-ending matchup of non-playoff

The Islanders (34-37-11) won by rallying from a 2-0 deficit and
closed the season by winning three straight and eight of 12

"These kids have played extremely hard, and I'm proud of what
they've done not only in the last month and a half, but these
last three games," Capuano said. "They really stuck together."

The future looks even better after Capuano reiterated that
Tavares is on track in his recovery from a left knee injury and
should be ready to begin training in the summer.

There is much more work to do in Buffalo.

Torrey Mitchell, Jamie McBain and Matt Ellis scored for the
Sabres (21-51-10), who had already clinched the NHL's worst
record. The Sabres went 0-6-1 in their final seven games.

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
by Tampa Bay in 1997-98.

"The standard has to be set a little bit higher than it was,"
Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "We'll address that starting with
the meetings (Monday)."

Nelson, an Islanders' first-round pick in the 2010 draft, was
eager to show what potential the team's youngsters possess.

"We knew we had a young group and a lot of rookies," said
Nelson, who topped the Islanders' rookie class with 14 goals and
26 points. "We wanted to go out there and give it everything we
had every night. I think we were able to do that."

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.

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.

Anders Lee, a recent call up, scored twice in a game the
Islanders never led until the final score.

The Sabres bookended their season with long droughts. Buffalo
got off to a 2-13-1 start, and ended with a 2-16-2 skid.

"This is our job and we failed. So it's definitely salt in the
wound," forward Marcus Foligno said. "I guess when it rains it
pours, and you really just got to keep putting your head down
and moving forward."

Though both teams' rosters were depleted by injuries, the
Islanders' fill-ins proved to be better.

Down 2-0, Lee scored both his goals in a span of 3:40, bridging
the second intermission, to tie it 17 seconds into the third

Mitchell put the Sabres ahead by deflecting in Rasmus
Ristolainen's shot 10:09 into the third, before Nelson scored
the equalizer.

Using Ristolainen as a screen, Nelson snapped in 40-foot shot
over Knapp's left shoulder.

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.

NOTES: 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. ... The Islanders went 21-18-2 on the road
for their best finish since going 21-15-3-2 in 2001-02. ... 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.

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