Buffalo Sabres defenseman Casey Fitzgerald (45) checks Islanders left wing Otto...

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Casey Fitzgerald (45) checks Islanders left wing Otto Koivula (36) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y.  Credit: AP/Joshua Bessex

BUFFALO — There’s no hiding the Islanders’ frustrated and exhausted mental state.

A disappointing season is coming to a disappointing conclusion with some disappointing performances, the latest being Saturday afternoon’s 5-3 loss to the Sabres at KeyBank Center.

“It’s been a mentally challenging year through a lot of stuff,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve got a week left here. Let’s just play with the professionalism and the integrity that you need night in and night out as professionals to try and win some hockey games. We’ve got to go the distance. We’re not a good enough team to say we can take a period off.”

Neither team is playoff bound, unlike the Islanders’ final three opponents over four more games. But the Sabres simply skated past the Islanders, playing 10 games over 16 days to finish the regular season and without Jean-Gabriel Pageau (COVID-19) and Anthony Beauvillier (upper body). They simply had no legs for long stretches, particularly in the Sabres’ three-goal, second period.

“I mean, you can imagine how we’re feeling,” said Mathew Barzal, who tied the game at 1 at 17:09 of the first period off defenseman Noah Dobson’s elite-level feed. “Back-to-back playoff runs. Out of the playoffs. It’s not easy, mentally, to come back…We’re not happy. We can’t be happy right now. It’s a bad mindset.

“We’re playing three good teams. If we don’t bring it, it’s not going to be fun for us. It’s more so just about character. We’re trying to make these last few count.”

The Islanders (35-33-10) next face the Hurricanes, battling the Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division, on Sunday afternoon at UBS Arena. They are in an 0-3-1 skid and gave little defensive support to goalie Ilya Sorokin (30 saves) in dropping their fourth straight game in Buffalo.

“There’s definitely frustration,” said defenseman Ryan Pulock, whose soft shot from the right point was deflected in by Kieffer Bellows to bring the Islanders within 4-3 at 10:22 of the third period. “We’re not where we want to be overall but we need to find a way to put together a 60-minute effort closing out the season. And we haven’t done that lately. It hasn’t been good enough. No matter what situation we are in, just, overall, the game hasn’t been good enough.”

Dustin Tokarski stopped 19 shots for the youthful Sabres (31-38-11), who have won four straight and five of their last six.

The Islanders did show some pushback in the third period.

Dobson got to the crease for a backhander to cut the Sabres’ lead to 4-2 at 8:45 before Bellows pulled the Islanders within one. But Jeff Skinner, with the puck loose at the Islanders’ crease, made it 5-3 at 12:40.

“Going into the third, we just said we had to find a way to just bear down,” Pulock said. “We did a pretty good job to start the period.”

“We wanted to go out and try and get one in the third and get momentum off of that,” Dobson said. “We did that. But it just wasn’t good enough in the end.”

Casey Mittelstadt, keeping the puck on an odd-man rush, had given the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 12:11 of the first period.

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin’s power-play blast from the blue line gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead at 1:17 of the second period. Tage Thompson slapped one past Sorokin from the left circle to make it 3-1 at 4:05 of the second period and Vinnie Hinostroza was able to skate to the crease and lift one over Sorokin at 12:48 of the second period to push it to 4-1.

More Islanders