Evgeni Nabokov looked pretty good for someone who hadn't played in a month.
Nabokov got the call to replace an injured Al Montoya late in the second period of Tuesday night's game in Winnipeg -- his first action since going down with a groin injury on Nov. 17. The 36-year-old stopped all 19 shots he faced through regulation and overtime, then denied both shootout attempts as the New York Islanders beat the Jets 3-2.
"I'm not a goalie and I couldn't imagine coming in cold like that, but I thought he played a great game," said Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic, a Winnipeg native playing his first NHL game in his hometown. "He gave us an opportunity to win and he was stellar in the shootout, so you can't ask for anything more."
Nabokov entered the game with 1:20 left in the second period after Winnipeg's Evander Kane drove to the net and collided with Montoya, who had to be helped off the ice. After stopping everything he faced to get to the shootout, he denied Blake Wheeler and Kyle Wellwood in the tiebreaker.
"Nabby came in in the third and did a great job," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Nabby did a great job in the shootout for us as well. For us tonight, the way our team is, we have to have all 20 guys playing and tonight we had that. We didn't have any passengers."
Capuano had no update on Montoya's condition after the game, but said he had no problem with Kane's action -- Kane received a minor for goaltender interference on the play.
"It's tough for a player when he is cutting in with that kind of speed," Capuano said. "I don't think he did that on purpose, to go in the way he went in. When you look up and the goalie is right there, it's tough to stop."
The Islanders (11-14-6) went 0-5-2 in their first seven games away from the Nassau Coliseum, but they are 5-1-1 in their last seven, including consecutive shootout wins at Minnesota and Winnipeg.
"We've got to keep playing like that on the road," said forward PA Parenteau, who scored the Isles' first goal in regulation and got the deciding goal in the shootout before Frans Nielsen scored to clinch the win. "It was a tough building to play in, we have a lot of young players and I think we showed a lot of character tonight."
The Jets had won nine of their last 11 home games before meeting the Islanders, but have only one win in their last three games in Winnipeg.
Nik Antropov scored his first goal in his past seven games, and captain Andrew Ladd scored for the second consecutive game for the Jets. Ondrej Pavelec was outstanding while making 31 saves through 65 minutes.
"We had some chances," Capuano said. "Their goalie made some tremendous saves."
The Islanders did not yield a single power play to the Jets, the second time they have done that to Winnipeg this season. Winnipeg (15-13-5) played without first-line center Bryan Little (lower body), forcing coach Claude Noel to shuffle all four of his forward lines.
"Right now when I look at our team play, we don't have the chemistry that we did before," Noel said in trying to explain his club's lack of on-ice chemistry of late. "The last two games, we have not been good. There doesn't seem to be the cohesiveness that we're looking for [and] that we had before."
The Jets managed just eight first-period shots and struggled with puck management and finding open ice early.
"Part of our [slow] start was we just weren't skating," Ladd said. "We'd get the puck into their zone and we were just standing still instead of moving our feet and getting in, getting the puck in and getting on their [defense] and really pressuring. That's a big part of our game and when we're at our best everyone is skating."
But despite outplaying the Jets for most of the game, the Islanders lost two leads and had to go to overtime; they had won just once in seven games that went past 60 minutes.
"You can't see it like that," Parenteau replied when asked if it was frustrating that Pavelec's work forced the Islanders into a shootout before they could collect their two points. "It's going to happen. Pavelec is a really good goalie and made some good solid saves, but we stuck with it in overtime and the shootout."
Neither club played tentative hockey off the opening faceoff. Coincidental minors to Kyle Okposo of the Islanders and Jets defenseman Mark Stuart early in the first period set up four-on-four play that the Islanders used to lure the Jets into a risky defensive approach. The Jets' careless transition game and an aggressive Islanders forecheck forced multiple Winnipeg defensive breakdowns that resulted in point-blank opportunities on Pavelec.
But for the seventh consecutive Islanders road game, they scored first. The Jets' fourth major defensive breakdown allowed Parenteau to cruise in unimpeded to a patch of down-low open ice, where he converted Matt Moulson's left-side feed into a wide-open net at 8:17. Part of the Islanders' top line with Moulson and John Tavares, Parenteau leads the club with 20 assists, but had managed only one goal in 14 games before tallying against the Jets.
"They owe me a couple [assists over the course of the season]," Parenteau said of his linemates with a laugh.
Winnipeg's defensive breakdowns continued, and only Pavelec prevented the Islanders from turning the game into a first-period rout. He stopped a prime chance from Michael Grabner and kicked out a left pad that kept Moulson from converting an excellent opportunity from just outside the crease.
The Jets got even by capitalizing on a needless icing taken by Parenteau. Antropov won the ensuing left-circle draw back to Johnny Oduya, who sent a shot back toward the net that caught Antropov's stick and skipped through Montoya's pads at the 18-minute mark.
Another Winnipeg defensive miscue enabled the Isles to go ahead again. Hamonic threw a shot from the high right boards that slipped through the skates of defenseman Zach Bogosian to Grabner, who tucked the loose puck past Pavelec at 3:53.
But the visitors' lead disappeared again halfway through the second period when Antropov scooted across the visiting blue line and backhanded a pass to Ladd. The Islanders' defense let its gap sag, and Ladd snapped a floating shot that eluded Montoya's outstretched left glove at 9:46.
The Jets finish their six-game homestand with games against Montreal on Thursday and Pittsburgh on Friday. The Islanders head back to New York to face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday before hosting Toronto the next night.