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Ice-cold Sabres still can’t beat red-hot Islanders

Anders Lee and Brock Nelson scored 62 seconds apart in the second period and Ilya Sorokin helped turn away a late Buffalo rally as New York kept rolling with its third straight 5-2 win over the Sabres.

“Hockey Day in America” proved to be a lot like any other day in 2021 for the Islanders and Sabres.

Meaning: the Islanders stayed red-hot, while the Sabres remained very much not. At least until a late push by Buffalo.

The Islanders have now won all six of their games against the Sabres so far in 2020-21, taking Sunday’s game 5-2. To make matters a little worse, all six of the Islanders’ wins over the Sabres came in regulation.

In Sunday’s case, you could argue that the game was over after Brock Nelson and Anders Lee scored goals just 62 seconds apart. A 3-0 Casey Cizikas goal made things that much more desolate for Buffalo during that same second period.

That said, the Sabres did make things interesting during the third period. With two goals in a bit less than four minutes, Buffalo shrunk the margin to 3-2. There were some tense moments for Ilya Sorokin, including a Colin Miller goal he arguably should have stopped.

Cal Clutterbuck’s 4-2 tally ended up providing the insurance the Isles needed, though. (Any doubt was erased by a Brock Nelson empty-netter.)

As much as this was about how hot the Islanders (12-2-2 in their last 16) are, things felt equally futile for the Sabres. While it’s harsh considering Taylor Hall was wrapping up a 90-second shift, this moment felt like a summary of his season, and that of his-still-new team:

Taylor Hall and Jack Eichel did get on the board with an assist each on that Miller goal, but it wasn’t enough.

(To add injuries to insults, Eichel seemed to be suffering some neck pain late in the game. When it rains, it pours.)

Sabres still have no answers for Islanders

Here’s a rundown of the other Islanders wins over the Sabres this season. Overall, the Islanders have now won nine in a row against the Sabres.

Feb. 15: Islanders 3-1
Feb. 16: Islanders 3-0
Feb. 22: Islanders 3-2
March 4: Islanders 5-2
March 6: Islanders 5-2

(Yes, that’s three straight 5-2 Islanders wins over the Sabres.)

The best news for the Buffalo Sabres: it will be a while before they meet the New York Islanders again. And they won’t face them that much more often. The final two Sabres - Islanders games of this season are currently scheduled for May 3 and 4.

(Also good news: Jeff Skinner finally scored a goal. Granted, it helps when you’re actually not a healthy scratch ...)

More and more, it looks like the Sabres’ league-high playoff drought will extend to 10 seasons. Beyond just the Sabres, the Islanders have now won five in a row, and are very much in the running to win the East Division.

NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL quadruple header on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S. The day is a highlight of NBC Sports’ NHL coverage in March, which includes 30 games over 30 nights.

NBC Hockey Day in America schedule

Lightning at Blackhawks – NBCSN – 2:30 p.m. ET (Watch live) – John Forslund and Pierre McGuire will be on the call for the game at United Center.

Devils at Bruins^ – NBCSN – 5 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Brendan Burke and Brian Boucher will be on the call for the game at TD Garden.

Rangers at Penguins^ – NBCSN – 7:30 p.m. ET (Watch live) – John Forslund and Pierre McGuire will be on the call for the game at PPG Paints Arena.

(^Blacked out in local markets: Pittsburgh, Boston, New York City)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.