Published April 27, 2013
| Sports Network
Buffalo, NY – Thomas Vanek scored the eventual game-winning goal in the first round of a shootout and Ryan Miller, playing his 500th career game, made 30 saves as the Buffalo Sabres downed the New York Islanders 2-1, Friday in both teams' regular-season finale at First Niagara Center.
"I took a moment to have a milestone," Miller said. "The position we were in, not going to be able to make the playoffs is just something that took my mind to a little bit of a different place. I just tried to enjoy the guys "
Brian Flynn scored and Vanek also provided an assist in regulation for the Sabres, who were already out of the playoff picture, but ended the season winning five of their last seven.
Keith Aucoin scored the lone tally for the Islanders (24-17-7), who have dropped three straight and currently sit in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference with 55 points -- one ahead of the idle Senators and Rangers.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 21-of-22 shots faced in the setback.
"Everything is going to be quicker, more physical, more edgy," Nabokov said of the postseason. "We have to get ready for that because it's going to be a hard series. It doesn't matter who it's going to be."
Islanders center John Tavares, who had scored a goal in each of the last four games, skated in slowly for a shot during in the third round of the shootout. His wrister through Miller's five-hole was stopped just enough, as the disc slid across the crease wide to give the hosts the victory.
Buffalo opened up the scoring early in the second period. New York's Kyle Okposo attempted to clear the puck in his own zone, but it deflected off a defender. Vanek collected the disc and found a streaking Flynn, who snapped a shot past Nabokov to make it 1-0 3:29 in.
Aucoin helped the Isles tie the game in a rather surprising fashion at the 7:26 mark of the third. Andrew MacDonald attempted a long pass from his endline to the center of the ice, but it went through a pack of players into Buffalo's zone. Miller tried to meet the puck after it hit the boards awkwardly, but Aucoin got the puck wide open in front for an easy goal.
Miller became the 20th goalie to play 500 career games with the same team ... Buffalo finished the season 21-21-6 ... New York had won four of the last five meetings in Buffalo ... After the game, Sabres center Jochen Hecht announced he will not return to the NHL and is heading to his native Germany with his family. Hecht retires after a 14-year playing career.