BUFFALO, N.Y (WIVB) — The Sabres were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday night with a 6-2 loss in New Jersey, extending the longest postseason drought in NHL history to 12 years.
The Sabres’ streak of non-playoff seasons is tied with the NFL’s New York Jets for the longest in North American professional sports now that the NBA’s Sacramento Kings have ended their 16-year drought, and the Seattle Mariners last fall advanced to the MLB playoffs for the first time in 21 years.
Buffalo (40-33-7) can get to 91 points in the standings with victories in Thursday night’s home finale against the Ottawa Senators and Friday’s game at the Columbus Blue Jackets. But that won’t be enough to overcome the Florida Panthers (92 points) and New York Islanders (91 points), who each have a game remaining and hold the regulation victory tiebreaker over Buffalo.
In the playoff hunt through the 80th game marked the latest into a season that the Sabres have played meaningful hockey since being eliminated from postseason contention in game 81 of the 2011-12 campaign that began Buffalo’s playoff drought.
Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin said the finality of the losing was a gut punch.
“Yeah, honestly, it’s pretty empty,” he said. “I didn’t know I was going to feel like this. But, you know, it is what it is. But the boys have fought hard and now we know what we’re capable of. We played in a couple months or so, but a little too late.”
Jeff Skinner and Mattias Samuelsson scored for the Sabres, whose late run wasn’t enough to earn the franchise its first playoff berth since 2011. A goal from JJ Peterka in the second period was disallowed when replays determined Peterka was offside.
Emerging 21-year-old star Devon Levi made 24 saves in losing for the second time in six starts.
Tomas Tatar had two goals and an assist as the New Jersey Devils and coach Lindy Ruff clinched home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
New Jersey never trailed leading 1-0 after the first and 3-1 after the second.
Boqvist scored the only goal in the opening period with a shot from the left circle that deflected off the skate of Buffalo defenseman Henri Jokiharju into the net.
Siegenthaler scored on a counter attack early in the middle period on a nice pass from Nico Hischier.
After Skinner got his 34th of the season off a nice assist by Casey Mittelstadt to cut the lead in half, Wood ended a 14-game goal drought by collecting a rebound that bounced around the crease and beating Levi.
Tatar stretched the lead to 4-1 seven minutes into the third period. Samuelsson got his second goal of the season with 6:45 to play. Tatar also had an empty-net goal.
Jack Hughes scored a late empty-net goal for his 97th point this season, breaking the franchise record of 96 set by Patrik Elias in 2000-2001.
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.