Lee capitalized on a pair of turnovers to score third-period goals a little more than five minutes apart to keep the Islanders in the playoff hunt with a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
''Obviously, when you're missing Johnny, it's a tough scenario,'' coach Doug Weight said. ''But the guys kind of bought in to what we were talking about and everybody's got to pick up the slack.''
The Islanders won in their first game since Tavares was sidelined by a left hamstring injury in a 2-1 win over New Jersey on Friday. He's listed week to week and, Weight said, there is no chance the team's leading scorer will play before New York closes the season against Ottawa on April 9.
With four games left, New York earned its 86th point to inch within five of Ottawa for the Eastern Conference's second wild card.
Leave to Tavares' linemate, Lee, to lead the offense by upping his career-best total to 31 goals.
With the score tied at 2, Sabres goalie Robin Lehner batted away a shot at the net, and the puck ended up on Lee's stick in the high slot. Lee fired it in under Lehner's left arm with 10:41 remaining.
Lee then sealed the victory by capitalizing on Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe's giveaway to the left of the Buffalo net. Lee reached back for the loose puck and backhanded it in with 5:27 left.
''Sometimes you've got to get the bounces. And they went our way in the third period,'' Lee said. ''When you lose a player like Johnny, you've got to keep it simple and play north-south. For the most part, we did that tonight.''
Lehner stopped 22 shots and took the blame for how he set up Lee's go-ahead goal scored a little over four minutes after Zemgus Girgensons tied the game by converting a give-and-go with Matt Moulson.
''I'm trying to get it away and I have that shot 100 out of 100 times if I see it,'' said Lehner, noting he was screened on Lee's shot.
Lehner also didn't like the way he was caught leaning the wrong way on Clutterbuck's goal that opened the scoring midway through the first period on a 35-foot wrist shot from the right circle.
''Their first goal shouldn't happen,'' Lehner said. ''It happens sometimes. It's hockey. It's a game of mistakes. I've just got to be better.''
The Sabres dropped to 6-11-2 in their past 19 in a late-season collapse that has led to Buffalo extending its playoff drought to a sixth consecutive season.
The Islanders need to keep winning and get help.
Lee has been on an extensive roll in having scored 30 times in his past 59 games.
Then there's Ho-Sang, who scored his fourth goal and 10th point in 17 games since making his NHL debut.
Driving directly at the net, Ho-Sang faked left and then put on the breaks before slipping a shot inside the right post.
''I love breakaways,'' Ho-Sang said with a wide smile. ''It's just me and the goalie. That's it. He's got to make a decision. I don't.''
NOTES: Sabres D Rasmus Ristolainen returned after serving a three-game suspension for a blindside hit that led to Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel sustaining a concussion. ... Islanders C Connor Jones made his NHL debut a day after being called up from AHL Bridgeport. ... Sabres RW Kyle Okposo missed his second game due to illness and has already been ruled out from playing against Toronto on Monday.
Islanders: At Nashville on Tuesday.
Sabres: Host Toronto on Monday.
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