The Winnipeg Jets playoff hopes took a hit on Saturday afternoon, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort.
John Tavares scored the winning goal in the shootout as the New York Islanders beat the Jets 5-4 in a fast-paced thriller at MTS Centre.
It probably shouldn’t have reached the shootout. The Islanders were much the better team, but the Jets played with a load of heart and grit. They even played most of the game with only 11 forwards. Olli Jokinen suffered a leg injury in the first period and didn’t return.
Still, the Jets showed heart. They fell behind 3-1 in the second period and came back to tie the game at 3-3 and then, after former Manitoba Moose star, Michael Grabner made it 4-3 with his 16th of the year at 9:13 of the third, Bryan Little of the Jets scored at 17:59 of the third period on the power-play to tie the game and send it into overtime.
“We were happy to get that fourth goal on the power play that’s for sure,” Kyle Wellwood told TSN 1290 radio. “We know we have to go into Buffalo on Monday night and win, that’s for sure. We’re hoping to put them away and then we’ll focus on Washington on Tuesday. That Washington game is going to be the game of the year for us. Our only focus the next couple of days will be to get two points and the win against Buffalo and then we’ll focus on Washington.”
Frans Nielsen opened the scoring at 4:21 of the first period, but the Jets evened it up at 10:42 on a goal by Zach Bogosian, his fifth of the year. However, Josh Bailey, who was outstanding on Saturday, made it 2-1 at 12:14 of the first and that’s how it finished after 20 minutes.
In the second period, Matt Martin made it 3-1 at the 9:47 mark, but Wellwood scored back-to-back goals at 10:27 and 13:24 to tie it up heading into the third.
But in the end, Tavares beat Ondrej Pavelec in the shootout to win it for the Islanders.
The Islanders outshot the Jets 33-28, but were outhit 43-14 by Winnipeg. The Islanders won 55 per cent of the faceoffs but the Jets blocked 25 shots. Eric Tangradi blocked four of them on one shift.
Andrew Ladd had a pair of assists and was a plus-two. Defenseman Grant Clitsome had two assists and was a plus-three. Although Jokinen was injured on his second shift, he was around long enough to be on the ice when the Islanders scored the first goal of the game. Jokinen is now minus-19 on the season, 818th in the NHL.
With the single-point shootout loss, the Jets improved(?) to 23-19-3. With 49 points in 45 games, the Jets are in ninth-place in the East, one point back of the eighth-place New York Rangers. The Rangers have one game in hand.
The Jets now trail the Washington Capitals 52-points to 49 in the Southeast Division race after the Capitals walloped the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in Montreal on Saturday night.
The Jets are now six points back of Toronto, four back of the Islanders and three behind seventh-place Ottawa.
“Well, we gotta be happy we got a point,” Wellwood told TSN 1290 radio. “Giving them two points is tough to take but getting 11 of 12 points is pretty good. Our goal was to get 10 points and we picked up 11. We thought we’d be in a better spot playoff wise by picking up 11 points, but we have to go on the road and beat Washington and see what happens.”
The Jets head out onto the road on Sunday. They play in Buffalo on Monday night and Washington on Tuesday. Both games are on TSN Jets TV.
Winnipeg will return home to play the final game of the season at MTS Centre on Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens.
(All Photos for Manitoba Hockey News by Shawn Coates)