Claude Lapointe has spent his previous eight NHL seasons in relative anonymity, but lately the spotlight has been on him.
Lapointe scored two goals,
"It couldn't happen to a more deserving guy than Lapointe," Islanders coach Mike Milbury said. "He's been on about half-a-dozen scoring chances every game."
New York raced to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Gino Odjick opened the scoring at 2:54 when he put a wrist shot past goaltender Dominik Hasek. Lapointe scored at 14:41 on a rebound.
Former Buffalo forward Jason Dawe picked up his first goal of the season at 6:09 of the second period, and then Bryan Smolinski drilled a slap shot past Hasek at 14:29 for a seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead.
"Even though it was 4-0, it really wasn't 4-0," said Sabres forward Matthew Barnaby. "We had a lot of chances to score, but up until then, they were just not going in."
The Sabres scored on a power-play goal by Curtis Brown at 18:27. And with just 15.7 seconds left in the period, Wayne Primeau cut Buffalo's deficit to two goals.
Dixon Ward closed the gap to 4-3 with a tip-in at 5:57 of the final period, and Brian Holzinger tied the game 36 seconds later on a point-blank wrist shot from the slot.
"We started working too hard," Islanders defenseman Bryan Berard said. "We were forgetting our roles and trying to do too much. We weren't working smart."
With Buffalo putting pressure on goalie Tommy Salo, he Islanders caught a break with 5:19 left in the game when defenseman Rich Pilon covered for Salo and used his leg to block a shot from Buffalo's Vaclav Varada.
"I almost went to the wrong man," Pilon said, "but I saw Tommy on the other side (of the net). I just tried to lay down, and it got me on the back of the leg."
And in a game of breaks, the Islanders caught the final one as the Sabres mistakenly failed to get the puck deep on a line change. Lapointe knocked the puck down at center ice along the left side and broke in alone on Hasek. He cut across to the right, and slipped a backhander between Hasek's legs.
"My first option was to pass to (linemate) Trevor (Linden), but at the last second, I saw he was covered," Lapointe said. "So I just drove the net and managed to put it in."
Lapointe is no stranger to breakaway attempts. He was stopped on a shorthanded breakaway during a 4-2 loss to Edmonton on Wednesday, and was stopped on a penalty shot by Rangers goaltender Mike Richter during a 3-2 loss on Thursday.
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