After accumulating three straight wins over the cakewalk section of their schedule, followers of the Winnipeg Jets wondered how they would stack up against a potential playoff team in the New York Islanders. The answer then played itself out over essentially the most riveting and dramatic sixty minutes at the MTS Centre this season.
For the first time in what feels like ages, the Jets got off to a poor start as a lapse in defensive coverage sent Frans Nielsen in on a breakaway which he tucked between the pads of Ondrej Pavelec, registering a 1-0 lead for the Isles.
Midway through the first period, Zach Bogosian would knot the score at 1-1 with a perfectly-placed point blast the eluded a helpless Evgeny Nabokov.
Two more five-hole goals by Josh Bailey and Matt Martin gave the Isles a 3-1 lead and it appeared as though the route could be on as New York vastly outplayed Winnipeg in the first portion of this afternoon's game.
But as has been their wont in their recent resurgence, the Jets wouldn't quit. Two rapid goals from the stick of Kyle Wellwood had us tied at 3-3 heading into a strenuous third period of play.
And what a period it was. Chances traded and late game heroics abound. Former Manitoba Moose Michael Grabner provided New York a 4-3 lead which they would hold until the waining minutes of the third period when Lubomir Vishnovsky took an ill-advised interference penalty.
It was on their last power play of the night that Claude Noel pulled his goaltender and put his chips all in, going 6-on-4 in the final two minutes. No more than fifteen seconds into the man advantage, we were tied again at 4-4 as a puck ricocheted onto the skate of Bryan Little who was able to sweep it past a desperate Nabokov, sending the MTS Centre crowd into mass eruption.
Though both teams would trade marvellous chances, overtime solved nothing and the Jets were off to yet another shootout.
This is where Winnipeg's comeback attempt would fall short as goals by Brad Boyes and John Tavares earned New York their twenty-third win on the season.
- What's the deal with 3-1 leads lately? Winnipeg possessed similar leads against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes last week, only to have them squandered late in the game. This time it was the Isles who relinquished their 2-goal lead only to claim their full two points off a shootout attempt by Jonathan Tavares.
- Ondrej Pavelec didn't have his best game of the year -- especially when paired with his latest performance on Thursday -- but he made some key stops down the stretch preserving Winnipeg's chances at tying the game and ultimately stealing a point.
- Though the power play has struggled the majority of the year, it sure came through when it counted today. Thanks, Bryan Little.
- Enough can't be said about the redemption of Islanders defenceman Thomas Hickey. Drafted fourth overall in the 2007 NHL Draft, Hickey never caught on with the Los Angeles Kings and was ultimately waived by the club earlier this year. After being claimed by the New York Islanders, Hickey is making the most of his second chance. Though pointless, he played over 19 minutes in TOI today.
- The Islanders have -- for all intents and purposes -- punched their playoff ticket with today's win. They're going to be a scary match-up for whoever draws them in the first round.