The New York Islanders took care of business on their Western road trip.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Islanders gritted and grinded their way to a 4-1-0 record on the five-game western swing, capping it off with a 4-3 OT win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night at MTS Centre.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Okposo said. “It’s not easy to play these games, especially when you’re in the east and not used to changing time zones, it can wear on the body a bit. Everybody is tired and a little worn down right now, it’ll be nice to go home.”
Kyle Okposo scored the overtime winner, but the last two points on the Western trip didn’t come easy. Mark Scheifele put the Jets ahead 3-2 with 2:03 to play in the third period, testing the Islanders resolve. Down a goal late, they regrouped, pulled their goaltender and came through, with Anders Lee tipping home the tying goal with 28.3 seconds to play to force overtime.
“We’re finding a way,” said Frans Nielsen, who finished the game with two assists, including the primary helper on the tying-and-winning goals. “We looked a little tired the last two games, but we’re doing the little things and battling hard.”
Calvin de Haan scored his second goal of the season, Shane Prince scored his first goal as an Islander and by the final horn, Capuano picked up his 200th career NHL win – all behind the Islanders’ bench.
“The guys worked hard this road trip,” Capuano said. “It’s a good win for us against a good team.”
The Islanders, playing the fifth game of a five-game Western swing, needed a period to get their legs under them. The Jets outshot the Islanders 15-6 in the first period, taking the lead on Scheifele’s first of the game, a power-play goal at 16:13.
Scheifele nearly had a second in the period had it not been for a pair of big-time saves by Greiss. First the Islanders’ goaltender stopped the Jets’ forward’s deflection on net, but with rebound about to drop in over his shoulder, Greiss punched it up and over the net, negating the chance.
The Islanders showed more jump in the second period, outshooting the Jets 10-5 in the middle frame and tying the game up in the process. Manitoba native Travis Hamonic, who was active and jumping up in the play all night, worked the puck out of the corner and out to de Haan in the high slot, who beat Michael Hutchinson at 6:02.
While Greiss came up with a timely stop in the first period, Johnny Boychuk came up with a critical stop in the second. The Jets wound up on a two-on-one rush a minute after de Haan’s goal, but Boychuk hustled back and laid out with his stick, stopping Nikolaj Ehlers from tucking the puck into an empty net.
Tied 1-1 after two periods, Prince put the Islanders ahead at 8:31 of the third, knocking down a pass from Frans Nielsen and beating Hutchinson with a mid-range wrist shot. The lead lasted all of 1:24, as Tyler Myers, took a feed from Alexander Burmistrov and beat Greiss five-hole at 9:56.
“It feels great to contribute,” Prince said. “It’s always tough on the road, but I felt like we played a pretty good game, especially in the second and third. It’s a huge come from behind win.”
The late tie set the stage for the wild finish. Scheifele – who was involved in the Jets’ best chances all night – ripped a shot over Greiss’ shoulder giving Winnipeg the late lead. But the Islanders, who gritted their way to wins over Calgary and Vancouver earlier on the trip, found a way again, as Nick Leddy's scored a point shot deflected off Anders Lee and in forcing OT.
In overtime, the Islanders were the beneficiaries of a fortunate bounce, though it also caused a brief scare for Winnipeg. Nielsen’s wrist shot caught Ehlers in the face and while the Jets’ forward dropped to the ice, Okposo potted the puck past Hutchinson. (Okposo and Nielsen recognized the situation immediately and waved Jets trainers over, though he skated off under his own power.)
The Islanders now head back to New York, but have one more game on their seven-game road trip, as they play New York Rangers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. Puck drop is at 5 p.m.