BROOKLYN – So many players recorded their first goals or assists Saturday night that the New York Islanders probably ran out of commemorative pucks. The final one went to the Sabres for a victory.
Buffalo closed the 2015-16 season with a 4-3 overtime win over the Islanders on Saturday night. Buffalo, which had just 54 points last season, recorded 81 this year with a 35-36-11 record. They improved to 23-15-7 in season finales.
Brian Gionta scored his second of the night with 2:14 left in overtime, taking a pass from Mark Pysyk in front and sending it top shelf to stun the crowd in Barclays Center.
Late tie: Just before a deflected point shot reached the Sabres' Linus Ullmark, John Tavares pulled it away from the goalie and tucked it home to make it 3-3 with 6:26 remaining.
Captain says shoot: Gionta sped into the Islanders' zone and fired a cannon from the top of the circle past goaltender Christopher Gibson with 14:03 left, giving the Sabres a 3-2 lead. The captain's 11th goal allowed Hudson Fasching to pick up his first NHL assist. Josh Gorges recorded his 100th career assist on the goal.
Smile time: Evan Rodrigues’ cheeks are going to hurt from smiling so much, with good reason. After taking a pass from Ryan O’Reilly just inside the blue line, the rookie cut from the left side toward the middle to freeze defenseman Scott Mayfield. With an open lane to shoot, Rodrigues sent a laser past Gibson. The 22-year-old’s linemates quickly mobbed him to celebrate the goal and a 2-1 lead with 2:03 left in the second.
Happy to visit: Former Islanders forward Matt Moulson has been to Brooklyn twice, and he’s scored both times. Sam Reinhart gave Jack Eichel the puck in the right circle, and the rookie center found Moulson at the side of the net for a tap-in to make it 1-1. Moulson’s goal, with 5:10 gone in the second, was his eighth in 81 games.
Career numbers: O’Reilly set a career high with 39 assists by helping out on Rodrigues’ goal. The center led the Sabres this season with 60 points.
First time: New York’s Scott Mayfield opened the scoring with his first NHL goal. The defenseman’s point shot slipped under the arm of goaltender Linus Ullmark with 2:03 off the clock in the second.
Another first: The Islanders' Alan Quine took advantage of a short-handed open net to score his first NHL goal and tie it, 2-2, with 17:53 left. Ullmark chased a dump-in but was beat to the puck by Bracken Kearns, who hit Quine with a pass.
Rookie night: The Sabres dressed nine rookies against the Islanders: forwards Eichel, Reinhart, Rodrigues, Fasching and Cole Schneider; defensemen Jake McCabe and Casey Nelson; and goaltenders Ullmark and Jason Kasdorf.
Goalies take first: Ullmark made six saves and Gibson turned aside seven Sabres shots as the teams played a scoreless first period. Ullmark’s best stop was an aggressive one. He came far out of his crease to cut down the angle of streaking New York defenseman Calvin de Haan.
Minor injuries: Defenseman Zach Bogosian and center Johan Larsson didn’t make the trip to New York after getting hurt Friday against Columbus. Goaltender Chad Johnson is also hurt.
“Nothing really substantial but did prevent them from playing,” coach Dan Bylsma said.
Line changes: Callups and injuries forced Bylsma to use four new lines against the Islanders. Ryan O’Reilly centered left wing Nicolas Deslauriers and right wing Rodrigues. Eichel was in the middle of Matt Moulson and Reinhart. Zemgus Girgensons skated between Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta. David Legwand centered Schneider and Fasching.
Still going: Former Sabres forward Eric Boulton dressed for just the fifth time this season for the Islanders. The 39-year-old is one of only two members of the 2000-01 Sabres still playing. Florida’s Brian Campbell is the other.
Money talks: One of the analysts on the Islanders’ television broadcast is Rick DiPietro. New York is paying the former goalie $1.5 million per year until 2029 after buying out his contract three years ago.
Salute: The military member honored during a stoppage in play was J.R. Martinez, a former U.S. Army soldier who was burned on over 34 percent of his body. He has since won “Dancing with the Stars,” acted on “All My Children” and serves as a motivational speaker.
Next: All that’s left is saying goodbye. The Sabres will gather Sunday morning in First Niagara Center for individual meetings and to clean out their lockers. General Manager Tim Murray and Bylsma will hold a season-ending news conference Monday afternoon.