DETROIT — If it was John Tavares’ final play as an Islander, it was a beauty.
Tavares, an impending unrestricted free agent, skated in and scored the winner at 3:16 of overtime as the Islanders ended their second straight season out of the playoffs by rallying for a 4-3 win over the Red Wings on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena.
“Just keep playing right to the end,” Tavares said. “Just a great way to finish.”
Anders Lee scored his 40th goal to become the first Islander to reach the mark since Jason Blake in 2006-07. Mathew Barzal had two assists to tie Bryan Trottier’s franchise mark for rookies with 63.
The Islanders (35-37-10) won a third straight game for the first time since Jan. 7-15 and finished seventh in the Metropolitan Division. In the 10th slot for the draft lottery, they have a 3.5 percent chance of selecting first.
Lee lifted a backhander over goalie Jared Coreau (36 saves) at 6:25 of the third period to bring the Islanders within 3-2. Barzal then set up rookie defenseman Ryan Pulock’s power-play goal with 29.7 seconds left in regulation. It was his 10th goal.
“That was pretty incredible,” Lee said. “The last two games, Dougie [Weight] has pretty much had me out on every other shift and the guys have been feeding me the puck.”
The offseason strategizing will start Sunday as the exit interviews begin. But Weight, sounding as if he expects to return as coach while saying he was “disgusted by failures, it’s unacceptable,” pinpointed one necessary improvement.
“We have to be a team that gets back to our identity of being really hard to play against,” Weight said. “Looking back at the playoff series . . . Florida , we were hard to play against. That’s on me and that will be addressed for sure. Contrary to what the people believe, this is a ship that’s turning around in the right direction.”
Challenge No. 1 is convincing Tavares to re-sign. He insisted there were no extra emotions as he prepared for his potential swan song as an Islander.
“I’m not looking at this as my last game,” he said. “I never said I’m expecting to leave or looking to leave. I’ve always wanted it to work out.”
Tavares said he will decompress and take his mind off hockey for a few days before beginning to analyze what his future might be. He said Saturday that he’s not sure whether remaining with the Islanders or leaving via free agency will wind up being a complex decision or a relatively simple one.
“I’ll find out when I get there,” Tavares said. “I haven’t really gone to that point of whether it will be really difficult or really easy and all that’s involved.”
Notes & quotes: Thomas Greiss had 36 saves . . . Tavares, Lee, Barzal and Brock Nelson played in all 82 games. It marked the first time since 2011-12 that the Islanders have had four players dress for all 82 games and the first time since 1986-87 that four forwards have played all 82 . . . Cal Clutterbuck’s second-period assist on Andrew Ladd’s goal at 3:51, which tied the score at 1, was his first point in 26 games.
Isles’ 40-goal scorers
Anders Lee joined an exclusive list Saturday night:
2006-07 – Jason Blake 40
1997-98 – Zigmund Palffy 45
1996-97 – Zigmund Palffy 48
1995-96 – Zigmund Palffy 43
1993-94 – Steve Thomas 42
1992-93 – Pierre Turgeon 58
1991-92 – Pierre Turgeon 40, Ray Ferraro 40, Derek King 40
1990-91 – Pat LaFontaine 41
1989-90 – Pat LaFontaine 54
1988-89 – Pat LaFontaine 45
1987-88 – Pat LaFontaine 47
1985-86 – Mike Bossy 61
1984-85 – Mike Bossy 58, Brent Sutter 42, John Tonelli 42
1983-84 – Mike Bossy 51, Bryan Trottier 40
1982-83 – Mike Bossy 60
1981-82 – Mike Bossy 64, Bryan Trottier 50
1980-81 – Mike Bossy 68
1979-80 – Mike Bossy 51, Bryan Trottier 42
1978-79 – Mike Bossy 69, Bryan Trottier 47
1977-78 – Mike Bossy 53, Bryan Trottier 46