Michael Grabner's scoring touch -- dormant for much of the second half of the season -- showed up just in time for the New York Islanders to win their home finale.
Grabner scored his second go-ahead goal of the third period on a deflection with 46.8 seconds left to give the Islanders a 5-4 victory against the Winnipeg Jets at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Thursday.
Grabner gave the Islanders a short-lived 4-3 lead by scoring on penalty shot with 8:15 remaining -- a lead that lasted just 36 seconds until Dustin Byfuglien tied it. He put the Isles ahead to stay by deflecting a shot-pass from defenseman Travis Hamonic past Chris Mason.
"We just wanted to finish the season strong," said Grabner, who has 19 goals this season after scoring 34 as a rookie in 2010-11 and finishing third in the balloting for the Calder Trophy. "We wanted to give the fans a win … and make them excited for next year."
The Islanders led 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3, but couldn't put the Jets away until the final horn sounded. Jets defensemen Zach Bogosian and Byfuglien tied the game in the third period. Another defenseman, Tobias Enstrom, and Andrew Ladd scored in the first to erase the early 2-0 hole.
A furious Jets coach Claude Noel was not interested in any excuses for his team finishing a four-game and eight-day road trip with another poor start and a loss.
"Let's not put excuses in here. We don't need excuses. We're good enough to win the game," he said.
"Those are just excuses. It's mental preparation. I understand it's not easy to get started at this time of year when you are out of it. I get that. But still you're an athlete and this is your chosen profession. Can you not play the right way? That's all I ask. Play the right way for the right reasons. That's why you play and that should be enough. The game starts and you start on time. I understand the motivation part. But that's poor and it's a poor character trait if that's what you got. I understand you don't have legs some nights. I understand those things. But not in the fashion we do things. That's what bothers me."
John Tavares set up goals by Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo to reach 50 assists this season -- making him the first Islander to get 50 in a season since Pierre Turgeon in 1993-94. A shaky Al Montoya made 21 saves for New York, which snapped a three-game losing streak. Mason stopped 23 shots for Winnipeg, in its final road game. The Jets conclude their first season in Winnipeg when they host Tampa Bay on Saturday, the same night the Islanders end their season in Columbus.
The Islanders are an acceptable 17-18-5 away from the Coliseum, but going 17-18-6 at home isn't nearly good enough to challenge for a playoff spot.
"We should've been a lot better at home," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We were good on the road, but not good enough at home. Our mission going into next season has to be to get better every day."
Shortly after PA Parenteau, the Islanders' third-leading scorer this season, sprained an ankle while driving in on a second-period breakaway, Okposo put New York back on top with his second of the night. Tavares made a spin move along the right boards in the Jets' zone and flung a pass across to Okposo, who carried the puck into the left circle and slammed a shot past Mason to make it 3-2 at 8:41.
A little over three minutes earlier, during a New York power play, Parenteau raced ahead and was closing in on the Winnipeg net when defenseman Mark Stuart charged in from the left and dived into Parenteau, with his stick outstretched. Stuart crashed into Parenteau while on his stomach, and appeared to pin Parenteau's left leg. No penalty was called, and play continued while Parenteau remained down on the ice. The Islanders announced that he had sprained an ankle.
"We lost Parenteau and other guys picked it up," Capuano said.
New York came out firing and scored on consecutive shots 1:28 apart. Moulson put the Islanders ahead at 6:38 in after Tavares took the puck from Winnipeg defenseman Grant Clitsome along the right boards. Tavares nudged a pass over to Moulson, who snapped in his 36th goal with a shot from the right faceoff dot.
“A lot of guys said (it wasn't a typical Moulson goal). I like to mix a decent one in every now and then," joked Moulson, who leads the NHL with 12 game-opening goals.
Okposo made it 2-0 at 8:06, hitting a wide-open net from the slot. Josh Bailey, stationed in the right circle, drew Mason to him before sliding the puck over to Okposo for an easy goal.
Noel was furious at his team's poor start.
"I think it's very disrespectful the way we start games," he said. "The way we started again tonight and the way we got down I think is disrespectful to one another and what we want to accomplish as a team. The game is 60 minutes, and whether you look at it as coming back I think it's poor. It's poor. The game is 60 minutes and I don't like the way we play and the way we disrespect each other. It's some individuals and it's our team."
But Enstrom got the Jets within a goal after Tavares had a pass intercepted in the Winnipeg zone. Enstrom ran a give-and-go with Jim Slater in the New York end, and scored his sixth goal at 9:42.
Ladd tied it with 2:52 remaining by scoring his 28th of the season, punching home a rebound into a wide-open net after Montoya stopped but couldn't control Bryan Little's shot from the right point.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.