BUFFALO -- A three-goal lead in the third period wasn't enough for the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout and Jhonas Enroth stopped all three shooters to give the Buffalo Sabres a 4-3 win against the Islanders at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres (14-19-3) ended a four-game skid. Enroth stopped Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and John Tavares in the shootout to earn the victory.
"In this game, it's one thing we said going into the third period, you just never know," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "Throw some pucks on net ... but for us to say it was going to happen was a different story. It was just a great third period."
The Islanders (23-11-1) jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two periods with a goal from Nick Leddy in the first period and two from Tavares in the second, but the Sabres scored three times in 5:12 in the third to tie the game.
Enroth made 33 saves through 65 minutes and improved to 5-0 in shootouts.
"I thought their goalie obviously elevated," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "I mean he was good tonight, but he made some big saves when he had to and that's what you need to do when you win hockey games. I thought their goalie played well and, we just, at that point, we had some quality chances … we just couldn't get one by him."
According to Elias Sports, it was the second time in Sabres history they overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third period and won. They also accomplished the feat on April 2, 2003 in a 4-3 win against the Atlanta Thrashers. It was also the first time they overcame a three-goal deficit and won since April 3, 2012 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It just goes to show you the type of character we have in this room and a no-quit attitude," Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. “Earlier on in the year, especially down 3-0, the way that they were kind of controlling the play, especially in the second period, we might've folded up shop. It's not so anymore. The type of grit, the type of determination we have in here … what a gutsy win."
Nic Deslauriers made it 3-1 with 13:21 left in the third period with his fourth goal of the season and second in as many games. Deslauriers received a pass from Stafford in the high slot and took a wrist shot that beat Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin for his fourth goal of the season. The goal also extended Deslauriers point streak to three games.
"We always believed, but we got lucky," Deslauriers said. "The puck just popped out at me, I took a shot and it went in. From there we built momentum and [Zemgus] Girgensons buried a nice goal there."
Girgensons made it 3-2 with a shorthanded goal with 9:59 left. Girgensons took a pass from Deslauriers and broke in against Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Girgensons' wrist shot beat Poulin to the stick side for his 10th goal of the season.
"I think a couple guys just turned it up a little bit more," Nolan said. "Girgensons went to the next level, [you] can't forget about [Chris] Stewart. I think for the last couple of games he's really coming on. Stafford didn't play his two best periods at the beginning, but he had a good third period."
Stewart tied the game 3-3 with 8:09 remaining. Stewart took a pass from Stafford, deked and then beat Poulin with a backhand shot for his fifth goal of the season.
"It's pretty much about giving your best at the end, not getting frustrated being down 3-0," Girgensons said. "We just needed that first goal to get a fresh start. It got us back on our feet."
Poulin made his season debut after he was recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League on Saturday morning. He is the third Islanders goaltender this season to see a 3-0 lead slip away, joining Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson.
"I thought he gave us a chance to win," Capuano said. "I think the first [goal], after he looks at it, maybe he'd like to tie that one up, I'm not sure, I'd have to look at that one again and the short-side goal. In the second period on their power play, even though our penalty kill was pretty good tonight, he made some big saves, especially the faceoff on [Andrej] Meszaros there with the one-timer. You know what? Coming in he played [Friday] night, back-to-back games, I thought he played pretty well."
Tavares' two goals gave him his first multi-point game since Nov. 22 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and gave him the team lead in goals with 15, one ahead of Brock Nelson. Tavares and linemates Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo created quality chances for much of the game.
"I thought that line was good tonight," Capuano said. "They did a lot of good things. I thought all the lines contributed. Any time that your top line can, after the break, get off to a good start, because we're going to need that, [is good]. But they were big for us tonight."
Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen left the game early in the second period because of an illness and did not return. Ristolainen played 42 seconds of the opening shift of the second period and played 8:14. Nolan said they'll evaluate his health before they go on the road against the Ottawa Senators on Monday.