Thursday, March 30

Thompson scores 37th in Sabers’ 5-3 win over Islanders

Tage Thompson scored his team-leading 37th goal during a three-goal, second-period surge, and the Buffalo Sabers defeated the New York Islanders 5-3 on Saturday in a game between two non-playoff teams.

Jeff Skinner, with his 33rd of the season, stuffed in Thompson’s rebound with 7:20 left to secure the win after Buffalo nearly squandered a 4-1 third-period lead. Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt and Vinnie Hinostroza also scored, and Dustin Tokarski stopped 17 shots.

The Sabers hung on for their fourth straight victory, the team’s longest since a 10-game run in November 2018.

Mathew Barzal snapped a 10-game goal drought by one-timing Noah Dobson’s pass into the left circle to tie the game at 1 with 2:51 left in the opening period. Dobson and Kieffer Bellows provided the Islanders brief hope by scoring goals 1:37 apart to cut Buffalo’s lead to 4-3 with 9:38 remaining.

Ilya Sorokin stopped 30 shots in dropping to 1-3-1 in his past five starts.

The under-performing and injury-depleted Islanders dropped to 0-3-1 in their past four in entering the final week of a season in which expectations had them making a deep playoff run to Christ in their newly built UBS Arena. Their season, however, was mostly undone by an 0-8-3 skid spanning November and December.

The Sabers, by comparison, are emerging by improving to 15-8-3 in their past 26 to close a season in which they’ve long been eliminated from playoff contention for an NHL-record 11th straight year.

Thompson’s emergence as an offensive threat has been one of many bright spots for the Sabers, who are already looking ahead to building for next season with a roster that should return mostly intact.

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Dahlin, the 2018 draft’s No. 1 pick, scored the go-ahead goal by blasting in a shot from the blue line 1:17 into the second period. Thompson scored less then four minutes later by one-timing in Jacob Bryson’s pass into the left circle.

Hinostroza capped the second-period run by faking a backhand and going forehand in flipping the puck inside the far right post while driving to the net off a no-look pass from Anders Bjork.

The Islanders’ frustrations showed with 5:20 left when Matt Martin jumped Skinner in the neutral zone after the whistle. Several other players squared off and Skinner eventually traded shoves and punches with Adam Pelech.

Skinner and Martin received minors for roughing, while Pelech and Ross Johnston were issued 10-minute misconducts.


The Islanders’ bench remained short two coaches for a second consecutive outing with Lane Lambert and Jim Hillier in the COVID-19 protocol. That left head coach Barry Trotz and assistant John Gruden handling all the duties, as they did in a 6-3 loss to the Rangers on Thursday.

“You’re just a little more busy,” Trotz said, noting he handled the forwards and Gruden the defensemen.


Islanders: LW Nathan Beauvillier (upper body) and C Jean-Gabriel Pageau (COVID-19) missed their second consecutive games.

Sabers: G Craig Anderson (undisclosed) is listed day-to-day after experiencing discomfort in practice on Friday. Buffalo recalled Aaron Dell from AHL Rochester to be the backup.


Islanders D Zdeno Chara’s assist on Dobson’s goal increased his total to 53 career points against Buffalo — the most by any active NHL defenseman and sixth-most among active players. It helps that Chara spent 18 of his 24 seasons playing for Boston and Ottawa, the Sabers Atlantic Division rivals.

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Islanders: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

Sabers: Close season road schedule at the Boston Bruins on Thursday.


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