BUFFALO, N.Y. – Thomas Vanek scored the lone goal in the shootout, and Ryan Miller made 30 saves before the tiebreaker to give the Buffalo Sabres in a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Friday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Miller, playing in his 500th game with the Sabres, sealed the win when he stopped John Tavares' shot in the third round of the shootout. Brian Flynn scored in regulation for the Sabres, off an assist from Vanek.
Keith Aucoin scored and Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves through overtime for the Islanders, who moved up to sixth place in the Eastern Conference but will need help to stay there. The Islanders (24-17-7) lead the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators by one point, but the Rangers have one game left, and Ottawa has two remaining this weekend.
Buffalo will miss the playoffs for the second straight season and fourth in six years. The Sabres head into the offseason with questions about the futures of general manager Darcy Regier, interim coach Ron Rolston, and Miller, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Miller became the 20th NHL goalie to play 500 games with one team. He received an ovation from the crowd before the game when he was recognized as the team's most valuable player. In his last home start before Friday's game, Miller was booed off the ice by fans as the Sabres were eliminated from playoff contention.
The Islanders earned at least one point in 12 of their final 13 games — losing in regulation time only at Philadelphia on Thursday.
New York controlled the action in overtime but couldn't get the puck past Miller. Tavares misfired on three shots from close range, and Miller turned aside hard drives by stood up to hard slap shots from Brian Strait and Josh Bailey.
Aucoin got the Islanders even at 1 with 12:34 left in the third period, slipping the puck between Miller's pads.
Nabokov kept New York in the game with six saves in the first seven minutes of the third period, including one on a breakaway by Vanek — the Sabres' leading scorer. Nabokov was also fortunate as Mikhail Grigorenko's shot hit the crossbar. Cody Hodgson missed the net completely on a shot from directly in front in the final minute of regulation.
Buffalo took the lead 3:29 into the second period when Vanek won a battle for the puck along the boards and sent a cross-ice pass to Flynn, who fired a slap shot from the top of the right circle over Nabokov's glove.
The Sabres protected their lead despite putting just four more shots on goal the rest of the second period. The Islanders failed to get a shot in on Miller during a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 54 seconds. The Sabres also killed off a 4-on-3 power play that lasted 40 seconds.
Miller thwarted Michael Grabner on a breakaway in the final minute of the period, getting his blocker on the puck as Grabner tried to maneuver into the crease.
Nabokov was sharp for the Islanders in the first period, stopping three point-blank shots in the first six minutes and two breakaways by Kevin Porter later in the period. Nabokov made 10 saves in the first period.
NOTES: The Islanders were 1 for 17 on the power play in their last four games. . Flynn and fellow rookies Grigorenko and Mark Pysk are expected to join the Rochester Americans in Toronto for the start of the AHL playoffs.