WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets only made a quick two-game stop at MTS Centre this weekend, but it was long enough to display the best and worst of their qualities.
The Jets churned out a 5-4 overtime win against the visiting New York Islanders on Sunday night after surrendering a second-intermission lead. Two goals late in the third period erased a three-goal New York outburst earlier in the period that set up Evander Kane's winning strike 1:59 into overtime for the Jets (3-1-1), who own a three-game winning streak.
"[Jokinen] made a great shot and made my life really easy," Kane said.
The win against a New York team that had taken three of four meetings between the clubs last season came after the Jets beat the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night in a 4-2 come-from-behind win. In both home wins, the Jets erased two-goal deficits.
"It wasn't the way that we would have drawn it up," Jets coach Claude Noel said, "but we can still get some positives out of the game. It wasn't ideally what we would have liked."
"You're going to have those nights," Noel continued, "and I think that what you have to do is to get a grip on things. It's not the way that we would like to play, and you don't want to do those things, but, hey, that's what you get in these games. The belief system is stronger from that Pittsburgh game."
New York used three goals in the opening 9:53 of the third period to erase a one-goal lead Winnipeg had taken into the second intermission. Matt Moulson deflected a shot past Jets goaltender Al Montoya that snapped a 2-2 tie. Mark Streit pushed the visitors' lead to 4-2 before the Jets stormed back with goals from Dustin Byfuglien and Alexander Burmistrov spaced 65 seconds apart that tied the game at 4-4 with 5:56 remaining.
"I think it's a fine line when you have a lead between really putting pressure on them, but also being pretty smart defensively," Moulson said. "We didn't do that."
Montoya, signed in the offseason after spending the past two seasons with the Islanders, made his Jets debut against his former teammates and turned in a 21-save evening.
"To play in front of this crowd," Montoya said, "I can't tell you the last time I felt like something like this. We were a resilient team. We did what we needed to do."
The Islanders took an early lead before falling behind a goal early in the second period. However, the visitors used Nabokov's strong work to hold the deficit at one goal before John Tavares tied the game 2-2 in the first minute of the third period. Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom slipped at his own blue line and allowed Tavares to break in and beat Montoya under the crossbar 22 seconds into the period for his first goal of the season.
David Ullstrom also scored for the Islanders, a pesky bunch that hung in the game despite registering just 15 shots over the first two periods. Nabokov, who had a night off in Friday's 4-2 road loss to the Boston Bruins, returned to action to make 30 saves. The Islanders surrendered a 2-1 lead against Boston in the loss and lost the game on two Bruins third-period goals .
"We just have to regroup and get better," Nabokov said. "We've got to move on. I thought that in the third period we came out with a little bit of intensity. It felt like we could take it to them, and we did, actually. But we need 60 minutes of effort from [all] the guys on the ice."
The Jets also picked up offensive contributions from Alexei Ponikarovsky and Bryan Little, who scored their first goals of the season. Byfuglien's third-period power play goal with 7:01 remaining sliced the Islanders' lead to one goal and snapped the Islanders' run of 16 consecutive kills to start the season.
"I thought that both power plays turned the game around," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Our power play did what we needed to do, and then Byfuglien's goal did what they needed to do. We knew they were going to come in the last five [minutes]."
Indeed, the Jets continued to push after Byfuglien's goal and quickly tied the game. Burmistrov snapped a high shot past Nabokov that tied the game.
"We wanted to get the win for [Montoya]," Burmistrov said. "He played a great game."
Ullstrom's second goal of the season put the Islanders up1-0 on their second shot of the game 2:34 into the game and pushed his scoring streak to four games.
The Jets, however, are now 3-0-0 in games in which they have allowed the first goal. Kyle Wellwood scurried behind Nabokov's net before backhanding a short saucer pass into the low slot that Ponikarovsky tipped past Nabokov at 10:15 for a 1-1 game.
Winnipeg broke the tie five minutes into the second period. Nik Antropov's work along the boards deep inside the offensive zone put the Islanders under heavy pressure. Andrew Ladd collected the puck behind the New York goal line and directed a pass to Antropov inside the bottom right circle. Antropov redirected the pass into the slot to Little, who banged a shot past Nabokov for a 2-1 lead.
The Jets' speed and transition game flustered New York for much of the game.
"We could have been down a lot more than a goal," Capuano said of his team's work over the first 40 minutes. "We couldn't close quickly enough. Their forwards did a great job, and they were first on the puck as far as puck possession. They had great separation in their offensive-zone play, and they spread us out. They got us moving around a bit."
The Islanders landed themselves in early penalty trouble, putting the Jets on three power plays in the opening period. New York, which began the evening having killed off all 13 opposing power plays that they had faced over the season's first four games, held the Jets scoreless on all three chances. But the penalty kill, so dependable for the Islanders early in the season, sputtered under late pressure that set up Byfuglien's game-tying goal.
"Hopefully this is a big learning lesson for us," Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald said after logging a team-high 28:19.