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game recap

Islanders clinch playoff berth with win against Sabres

Lehner makes 31 saves for New York; Buffalo has lost 13 of 14

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Beauvillier's wrister finds twine

BUF@NYI: Beauvillier doubles lead with nifty wrister

Devon Toews slides the puck to Anthony Beauvillier, who rips home a wrister from the slot to double the Islanders' lead in the 2nd

  • 00:52 •

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 5-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.

New York (46-26-7), which has won four of its past five games, leads the Pittsburgh Penguins by four points for second place in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the Washington Capitals. Anthony Beauvillier scored twice, and Robin Lehner made 31 saves.

It will be the Islanders' first playoff appearance since 2016.

 

[WATCH: All Sabres vs. Islanders highlights]

 

"It is special," New York captain Anders Lee said. "We have a wonderful group of guys in here. There's a lot of leaders, character guys, guys that have battled through a lot of adversity at various points in their career, whether it's this year or years prior. We've all come together here in this room to have a common goal and to stick together, and I think you've seen that throughout the season when things are going well or things aren't. We've really stuck together."

Victor Olofsson scored his first NHL goal, and Carter Hutton made 33 saves for Buffalo (31-37-10), which has lost six in a row (0-5-1) and 13 of its past 14 games (1-11-2). The Sabres have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Video: BUF@NYI: Bailey connects with Beauvillier for tally

"This game wasn't really about X's and O's," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "It was just about battles. The 1-on-1 battles, they were heavier, they were a bigger team. That's why they're in the playoffs in the position they're in."

Jordan Eberle gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 7:41 of the first period when he put Mathew Barzal's rebound past Hutton for his fourth goal in the past four games.

Hutton kept it a one-goal game by saving Beauvillier's penalty shot at 12:23 of the first period after he was taken down on a breakaway by Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour.

But Beauvillier made it 2-0 at 8:20 of the second period. Devon Toews carried the puck into the Sabres zone from center ice and fed Beauvillier, who scored on a wrist shot from the high slot for his first goal since March 7 (12 games).

"It's so nice, we've been battling all year [to clinch a playoff berth]," Beauvillier said. "It's just fun, it's an exciting time of the year. To be able to be in the playoffs, we feel lucky but we also deserve it. We worked hard for it.

"Nothing's done yet. It's just the beginning of something."

Video: BUF@NYI: Eberle nets rebound to open scoring

Michael Dal Colle extended the lead to 3-0 with 34 seconds left in the second period when he stuffed a rebound between Hutton's pads after he made the initial save on Adam Pelech's shot from the left point.

Ryan Pulock scored from the right circle 30 seconds into the third period to make it 4-0, and Beauvillier finished off a passing play with Josh Bailey and Leo Komarov at 6:07 to give New York a 5-0 lead.

"I thought Ryan was the best player on the ice tonight," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "He was dominant, he defended well."

Olofsson ended Lehner's shutout bid on a power play at 13:28 for the 5-1 final.

"Really early, I just knew it was a really good group of guys and good people," Lehner said. "I think in camp, you saw that everyone was working hard. The big thing for me was everyone was working really hard in practice and everyone paying attention.

"We just kept building from there. It's incredibly rewarding to be a part of this group this year."

Video: BUF@NYI: Pulock goes five-hole early in 3rd

 

They said it

"I don't know how to explain this anymore. It's frustrating. I guess we had a good last 10 [minutes], but teams just bury us, they just sit back. I don't know, it's frustrating. I try to compete as best I can. I don't know what to say right now. It's obviously frustrating." -- Sabres goalie Carter Hutton

"We've been up there in the standings for quite a while, so this doesn't feel like a surprise or doesn't feel like we should be jumping with joy. We're excited, we're happy, we've accomplished a lot without a lot of people believing in us. From the fans to us, it's a great first step here." -- Islanders captain Anders Lee

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Islanders clinch a playoff spot

 

Need to know

The Sabres were without center Vladimir Sobotka because of an upper-body injury. … It was the first time the Islanders clinched a playoff berth in March since 1990. … Lehner set an NHL career high with his 24th win of the season. … Lee had an assist and reached 50 points for a third straight season. … New York is 37-2-2 when it scores at least three goals.

 

What's next

Sabres: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday (6 p.m. ET; TVAS, MSG-B, FS-O, NHL.TV)

Islanders: Host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday (Nassau Coliseum; 7 p.m. ET; MSG+ 2, SNO, NHL.TV)

Video: Islanders clinch playoff spot in win against Sabres

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