BROOKLYN, New York – After scoring nine goals in the first two games to open the 2015-16 season, the Winnipeg Jets could not muster enough offensively, dropping a 4-2 decision to the New York Islanders at Barclays Center.
Second- and third-period goals from Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien made it close, but the Jets were unable to overcome a three-goal deficit.
Ryan Strome, John Tavares, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey (EN) scored for the Islanders, while Thomas Greiss made 22 saves.
Ondrej Pavelec was terrific at the other end, stopping 40 of the 43 shots he faced.
The Jets have now suffered their first loss of the season and will head into tomorrow’s games against the New York Rangers with a 2-1-0 record.
“We didn’t have a whole lot going,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “They skated better than we did. They got to pucks faster and hung on to them longer. It was a tough start. We were fortunate to get out 1-0 after the first period. We had to crawl out harder and we didn’t do that.
“It was a faster game. Faster than the first two games that we played, except we weren’t. We weren’t great.”
The Islanders went up 1-0 thanks, in large part, to a questionable call on Mark Stuart late in the opening period. Kyle’s Okposo’s bomb from the right point sailed wide off the end boards, right to Strome, who buried it for the PPG.
Shots on goal favoured the Islanders 16-6 after one period of play – the hefty advantage aided, in part, by more than six-and-a-half minutes of power-play time.
The Islanders finished the night 1-for-6 on the power play.
“It’s been two games out of the three this year that we’ve come out a little flat,” Bryan Little said. “It’s tough to put my finger on it. I don’t know if we were just a little comfortable after winning the first two games or… but we came out flat and they came out hungry, ready to play. It wasn’t an easy night for us.”
It took nine-and-a-half minutes for the Jets to register their first shot on Greiss – a breakaway from Little, who deked to his backhand but was denied in tight.
“Hopefully it’s an isolated incident,” Little said of the Jets’ penalty troubles. “A bit of it had to do with how much possession they had and how we were chasing the puck. You tend to take a lot of penalties when you have to haul guys down on breakaways, on 2-on-1s and stuff like that.”
Anders Lee nearly put the Islanders up by two early in the middle frame, but his redirection in the high slot was ruled no goal as a result of a high stick.
Unfortunately for the Jets, the home side ultimately got what they were looking for within minutes of the review. Coming down his off wing, Nelson fired a shot low, stick side on Pavelec for the two-oh tally on an odd-man rush.
The Islanders took a 3-0 lead at 10:45, once again capitalizing on one of their many power-play chances. With Byfuglien off for roughing, Tavares cranked a shot from the top of the far circle, beating Pavelec under the bar.
The Jets made a game of it at 15:41, cutting the deficit to two. Right off the faceoff, Scheifele rifled a shot top shelf on Greiss, giving him three (beautiful) goals in as many games this season. Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathieu Perreault recorded the assists after winning the draw and working the puck to the middle.
The Jets drew within one with a power-play goal at 11:52. Byfuglien’s point shot deflected off the stick of Islanders defenceman Johnny Boychuk and in, giving the visitors life.
Tavares was awarded a penalty shot with less than three minutes to play, but Pavelec made a terrific glove save to keep the Jets within one.
“It’s a tough team to play against,” Pavelec said. “They have a lot of skill in their lineup and especially on the power play. We picked it up a little bit in the third. For two periods I don’t think we played our game, but in the third we were OK.”
The Jets pressed with Pavelec out in the final minute, but Bailey added an empty-netter with 18.1 seconds to play.
The Jets are back in action tomorrow night against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
“Every team has these games. We’re 2-1. We played well enough to win two and didn’t play well enough to win tonight, so we move on to the next game,” Maurice said. “We deal with our problems and our issues directly. I’m not casual about the loss, but the fact that we had one tonight doesn’t shock me.”
LATE HITS: Byfuglien left the game late in the third period, favouring his leg. Maurice did not have an update on the defenceman’s status.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com