BUFFALO -- The New York Islanders moved to within five points of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with a 4-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Sunday.
Anders Lee scored twice in the third period and Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves for the Islanders (37-29-12), who trail the Ottawa Senators for the second wild card. Ottawa has one game in hand.
"It was a good win," Islanders coach Doug Weight said. "A big couple of goals from [Lee]; he's had a great season. And [Halak] was good in the net. Pretty much, I could just open the door and let these guys go play."
WATCH: All Islanders vs. Sabres highlights
The Islanders, who played their first game without center John Tavares, who will miss the remainder of the regular season with a lower-body injury, have won two straight games and have four games remaining.
Lee gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead at 9:19 of the third period when he picked up a loose puck after Sabres goalie Robin Lehner batted it into the slot and took a shot that beat Lehner. Lee scored his second goal, and 31st of the season, at 14:33 with a backhand shot past Lehner after a turnover by Jake McCabe.
"You always set your goals based on prior seasons and continue to become a better player," Lee said. "But you've got to get plenty of breaks and play with some great players all season and the chemistry that we've had has benefited me a lot."
The Sabres (32-34-12) have lost two straight games.
Video: NYI@BUF: Clutterbuck goes upstairs to beat Lehner
Cal Clutterbuck gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 9:31 of the first period. He received a pass from Nick Leddy and skated up the right wing and took a shot that beat Robin Lehner for his fifth goal.
Evander Kane made it 1-1 at 10:08 of the second period with his 27th goal. Kane took a pass from rookie C.J. Smith and beat Halak with a shot to the blocker side. Smith's assist was his first NHL point after he signed with Buffalo on Thursday.
"It was exciting to get the first [game] out of the way," Smith said. "Obviously, it was exciting to get a point, but it's not really the way you want to start."
Joshua Ho-Sang gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead 56 seconds after Kane's goal. Ho-Sang took a pass from Dennis Seidenberg and skated past the Sabres defense before he deked and slipped the puck past Lehner for his fourth goal.
"Whenever Buffalo scored we didn't hang our heads and bounced back and I think that's a big sign of a team that wants to win," Ho-Sang said.
Video: NYI@BUF: Girgensons redirects Moulson's perfect feed
Zemgus Girgensons made it 2-2 at 5:17 of the third period. Girgensons received a pass from Matt Moulson and tipped the puck past Halak for his goal.
Goal of the game
Lee's game-winning goal helped him reach the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career.
Video: NYI@BUF: Lee gives Isles the lead with tricky wrister
Save of the game
Halak came up with a pad save against William Carrier 1:56 into the second period that shut down a Sabres scoring chance.
Video: NYI@BUF: Halak robs Carrier in tight with his pad
Highlight of the game
Ho-Sang made a nice individual effort for his goal.
"I love breakaways… It's me and the goalie," Ho-Sang said. "That's it. He's got to make a decision; I don't."
Video: NYI@BUF: Ho-Sang finishes break with outstanding move
Unsung performance of the game
Islanders center Connor Jones played 11:13 and had three hits in his NHL debut after he was recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League to replace Tavares in the lineup.
They said it
"We have four games left and we've got to win them. That was the first step. I mean, two in a row and I felt like we got off to a better start in the last two games. It's been a problem in the last two weeks and, obviously, when you're missing [John Tavares], it's a tough scenario. But the guys kind of bought in to what we were talking about. Everybody's got to pick up the slack." -- Islanders coach Doug Weight
"We come out and it's 2-2 in the third and yeah, it's a tough game. I think we deserved a better fate. I've got to have the first goal of the game back then they score there 3-2 also a little bit unfortunate. Unfortunate and too bad it doesn't touch one of our [defensemen] there. I tried to find it, but yeah. Last goal is kind of what it is, it happens once in a while, but I think we deserved a better fate tonight and I have to be better." -- Sabres goalie Robin Lehner
Need to know
Jack Eichel was held without a point for the second straight game for the first time since Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. … According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Smith is the second Iowa-born player to appear in an NHL game joining goalie Scott Clemmensen.
Islanders: At the Nashville Predators on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, MSG+ 2, NHL.TV)
Sabres: Host the against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports, MSG-B, NHL.TV)
Video: Lee nets a pair to lead Isles over Sabres, 4-2