There has not been too much New Year's cheer for the Buffalo Sabres as they finished the 2015 portion of their schedule.
The Sabres dropped their final three games of the calendar year, capped by Thursday's 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders before the season's fourth sellout crowd of 19,070 in First Niagara Center.
With Josh Gorges in the penalty box for holding, Frans Nielsen jammed a loose puck in the crease past Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark at 9:35 of the second period to put the Islanders in front and Buffalo never caught up. The win pushed them one point ahead of the New York Rangers, into second place in the Metropolitan Division.
It's the third time this season the Sabres have lost three straight games. They do not have a four-game losing streak. They had been shut out at home for more than 119 minutes until Ryan O'Reilly's power-play goal at 11:18 of the third period cut a 2-0 deficit in half.
Power play struggles: The Sabres went 0 for 3 with the man advantage in the first period but peppered Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss with 11 shots on goal. They were 0 for 24 on the power play in the last eight games until O'Reilly finally broke the string on a goal with 8:42 left, his 15th of the season.
King Kong Killers: On the other side, the Islanders continued their club-record run of penalty killing. They had killed off 42 straight penalties and had gone unblemished for a franchise-best 16 straight games until the O'Reilly goal. The NHL record for consecutive penalties killed is 53, set by the 1999-2000 Washington Capitals.
Challenge denied: The Sabres challenged the Nielsen goal, contending that Anders Lee used his stick to push Ullmark and interfere with the goaltender. The goal was upheld.
Chance after chance: The Islanders made it 2-0 at 1:07 of the third period as Nikolai Kulemin scored from in tight after a neat backhand pass by Kyle Okposo. The play started with a 2-on-1 break but the initial shot careened over Linus Ullmark and deflected off the glass. The Islanders regained possession and Okposo made the play to create his team-hign 19th assist of the season.
Eichel magic: Jack Eichel's assist on the O'Reilly goal gave him nine points in the last six games (2-7) and seven points (2-5) in the last four. It came on a neat cross-ice pass.
Shot reversal: At one point in the first period, all the power plays helped propel the Sabres to a 16-1 advantage in shots on goal. The Isles got it even at 30-30 but the final count was 43-33 for the Sabres.
Potentially big loss: Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk went straight to the dressing room with 4:27 left with an apparent left shoulder/collarbone injury. He crashed into the end boards trying to track down Eichel, who spun away from him.
In the net: Greiss improved to 11-5-2 as the Islanders backup to Jaroslav Halak. He was making his third straight start as Halak is on injured reserved with an upper-body injury.
By the month: The Sabres finished December with a 5-7-2 record. They went 4-7-0 in October and 6-5-2 in November.
Up Next: The first game of 2016 is here Saturday at 1 against Detroit. In the teams' last meeting Dec. 14 in Joe Louis Arena, the Sabres got two third-period goals to pull out a 2-1 win. Previous to that, the Wings posted a 5-4 shootout win over Buffalo on Dec. 1.