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Islanders tie Jets late, Okposo scores in OT

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG – After Nick Leddy tied the game with just 28 seconds left in the third period, Kyle Okposo won it for the Islanders in overtime, extending the Jets’ home losing streak to six.

A Frans Nielson wrister hit Nikolaj Ehlers in the face before Okposo put the rebound past Michael Hutchinson, giving the Isles a 4-3, come-from-behind victory.

It was one of the most unusual goals you’ll ever see – a kick in the gut after such a strong effort leading up to it, for a team looking for something positive to build around.

“It’s a highly unusual play that ends up being the game winner,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said, adding that he liked his team’s game tonight. “We’d given up five even-strength shots in each of the first two periods. The pace picked up and I liked the way we played in the third. When they got ahead, I liked a lot of it. When you get a chance with a lead like that, we need to be a little stronger in that final stretch.”

Mark Scheifele broke a 2-2 tie with 2:03 to play in the third period, but the Islanders didn’t quit, tying the game at 19:31 to send the game to overtime.

Scheifele fired a beautiful shot over the right shoulder of Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss for what appeared to be the winner, but with the goalie out, Leddy blasted a 35-footer through traffic, beating the screened goalie for the equalizer.

“It sucks. We battled our hearts out,” Scheifele said. “When you play a game like that, create as many chances we did… It’s obviously tough that it didn’t come out our way.

“We can’t get down on ourselves. It’s going to suck tonight, we’re going to feel bad about it tonight, but tomorrow’s another work day and we know that we’ve got another game coming up.

The Jets had a strong third period – their Achilles' heel of late – firing nine shots of the way of Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss, while giving the same to team battling for a playoff spot.

“That was one of our better third periods in a while,” Tyler Myers said. “Not much you can do about (the winning goal). Tough way to lose for sure, but we can take something out of that last 20.”

The Jets were all over the Islanders in the opening 20, as well, outshooting them 15-6 and getting the better of the high-danger scoring chances.

Scheifele got the Jets on the board first with a power-play goal late in the opening 20. Mathieu Perreault gobbled up the rebound left by a Dustin Byfuglien point blast before dishing off to Scheifele, who fought off the defence and poked it home for the PPG, setting a new career high for goals in a season.

With his goal late in the third, Scheifele now has 17 goals on the year.

“We created a good amount of chances and we held the puck for most of the period. To not get the win out of that, it sucks a lot,” he said.

St. Malo, Manitoba native Travis Hamonic had a glorious chance to open the scoring midway through, but after making the initial block on John Tavares, Michael Hutchinson robbed Hamonic on the putback, booting it aside with his left heel.

Calvin de Haan tied things up with a long-range wrister at 6:01 of the second. Hutchinson waved at it and did get a piece, but not nearly enough as the Islanders netted the equalizer on just their 10th shot of the evening.

Shane Prince put the Islanders in front at 8:31 of the third as finished a partial break courtesy Kyle Okposo, but Myers replied just 1:24 later. Alexander Burmistrov did some great work to get the puck back to Myers in the slot, and the defenceman made no mistake, firing a shot five-hole for the equalizer.

“That’s a frustrating loss,” Hutchinson said. “To have the lead that close to the end and to have them score, for a goal to go in like that, it’s unfortunate, especially when you see one of our good, young players take a puck right in the face. You never want to see that happen.”

LATE HITS: Anthony Peluso left the game late in the first period and did not return with an upper-body injury. Peluso drove hard to the net and collided with the crossbar. He left the ice under his own power, but did not lift his right arm before heading off to the dressing room.

“We’ll get the final results tomorrow but I’m not optimistic,” Maurice said.

– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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