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by Staff Writer / New York Islanders

Isles comeback falls inches short as Sabres move onto the Eastern Conference Semifinals

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By Jason Lockhart

Down 3-0 to the Buffalo Sabres heading into the third period, the Islanders put up a heroic fight in the final 20 minutes, only to fall 4-3 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Sabres move onto the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 4-1 series win.

Goals by Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville and Derek Roy put the Sabres in complete control through two periods and well on their way to an easy win, but the Islanders played their most inspired period of hockey all season to get within one.

Miroslav Satan, Trent Hunter and Chris Campoli scored for the Islanders in the third period, while Maxim Afinogenov countered for the Sabres.

Campoli cut the lead to 4-3 with 6:53 remaining in the third period to give the Islanders that much time to send it into overtime.

It was on their final rush when looked as if they might just do it. Satan took the puck along the right-wing side and made a strong cut to the front of the net. He busted around one defender and then goaltender Ryan Miller. Satan swept the puck towards the open net, but Miller spun around and blocked the puck with the back of his glove saving a goal and ending the Islanders' season.

"I thought Satan's shot was going in," said Ted Nolan. "We just didn't get the breaks to win some of those games. But those are the lessons you learn. The guys really showed they could compete in the third and I'm proud of them."

With 4:56 left in the first period, Drew Stafford beat Randy Robitaille from behind the net and laid a backhander past Rick DiPietro for the only goal of the first period.

The Sabres took a 2-0 lead 39 seconds into the second period. Daniel Briere fed Pominville in front for a one-timer.

Derek Roy made it 3-0 with 7:31 left in the second period after jamming home a rebound.

The Islanders took over in the third period throwing everything at Miller, and out-shooting Buffalo 18-5.

At 4:22 of the third period, Satan cut the lead to 3-1 with a backhand spin-o-rama.

Buffalo grabbed a 4-1 lead on a rush. Thomas Vanek fed Afinogenov for his first goal of the playoffs, 6:38 into the third period.

Hunter scored at 9:43 of the third period to make it a two-goal game again. Hunter scored on the backhand off Bruno Gervais' rebound.

With 6:53 to go in the third, Campoli jump into the play and scored for a 4-3 game.

"I thought we had a chance at the end," said Jason Blake. "They're a great team. I thought we put some good pressure on them. It was a very disappointing and a tough loss. As a group of guys we definitely persevered the last month of the season and we have to be proud of that."

Miller earned the win by stopping 30 shots, while DiPietro turned aside 23 shots.

"As the season progressed I really came to love it on Long Island," said Nolan. "It's one of the best kept secrets in the league, and we look forward to getting people excited about the team for next season."

Five Stars of the Game:
1. Maxim Afinogenov:
Scored the eventual game-winner, assist
2. Chris Campoli: The third was arguably his best period of the season, goal, assist
3. Drew Stafford: Scored his first career playoff goal
4. Bruno Gervais: Right there with Campoli leading the third-period charge
5. Henrik Tallinder: Led Buffalo in ice time, 5 blocked shots


Honorable Mention: Miroslav Satan: Stepped up his game in the third and nearly sent the game into OT with a strong final move, goal, assist.

Stat of the Game: The Islanders dominated the third period out-shooting Buffalo 18-5.

Slapshots: The Sabres are 7 for 7 when leading 3-1 in a series...The Islanders scored three goals in one period for the first time in the series...Chris Campoli scored his first playoff goal...Three Sabres scored their first goals of the playoffs.

39 Rick DiPietro
34 Wade Dubielewicz

32 Brendan Witt - 8 Bruno Gervais
3 Tom Poti - 47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
14 Chris Campoli - 49 Rico Fata

94 Ryan Smyth - 18 Mike Sillinger - 7   Trent Hunter
45 Arron Asham - 27 Randy Robitaille - 55 Jason Blake
79 Alexei Yashin - 25 Viktor Kozlov - 81 Miroslav Satan
11 Andy Hilbert - 10 Richard Park - 20 Richard Zednik

30 Ryan Miller
35 Ty Conklin

27 Teppo Numminen - 45 Dmitri Kalinin
51 Brian Campbell - 6 Jaroslav Spacek
5 Toni Lydman - 10 Henrik Tallinder

55 Jochen Hecht - 48 Daniel Briere - 29 Jason Pominville
12 Ales Kotalik - 23 Chris Drury -15 Dainius Zubrus
26 Thomas Vanek - 9 Derek Roy - 61 Maxim Afinogenov
22 Adam Mair - 19 Tim Connolly - 21 Drew Stafford


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