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Jets blank struggling Islanders 3-0

by Brian Compton
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- With three of their top defensemen out with various injuries, the Winnipeg Jets knew they were going to need Ondrej Pavelec to be their best player Thursday night.

He was.

Pavelec stopped all 34 shots he faced and made Evander Kane's first-period tally stand up for much of the night as the Jets earned a 3-0 victory against the struggling New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Johnny Oduya scored late in the third period before Alexander Burmistrov iced the win with an empty-net tally for the Jets, who will look to make it three in a row Saturday night at New Jersey.

Pavelec was busy for much of the first two periods and saved his best work for the middle 20 minutes, when he was forced to stop 19 shots. It was somewhat heroic when you consider Winnipeg was missing Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart (as well as Derek Meech) at the start of the contest and lost Randy Jones early in the third period after a slap shot struck his ankle.

"I think we had like 20 blocked shots (actually 19) … that's amazing," Pavelec said. "The guys on the PK did a great job. We had two new guys (Brett Festerling and Mark Flood) in this game, and I think they did a great job."

Pavelec has been stellar for the Jets since that wild 9-8 affair in Philadelphia last Thursday, when he was pulled after allowing six goals on 33 shots. Since that time, Pavelec is 2-1-0 and has allowed only four goals along the way.

"He's played like this now for the last couple of games," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said. "He's really bounced back from that Philly game. If this is the level that he continues to play at, we've got ourselves a heck of a goalie."

The Islanders are now winless in six straight (0-4-2) and have scored just 18 goals while going 3-5-2 in their first 10 games, the fewest they've ever scored in that span. The shutout was the third in seven home games.

Rick DiPietro made 23 saves in his second straight start for the Islanders, who have scored a grand total of two goals in more than 120 minutes during that span.

"It's tough," DiPietro said. "At the end of the day, this is your job. It's so frustrating. You go home and it's tough to even get to sleep at night. You go over different plays in your mind over and over and over again. By the time you're about to fall asleep, they show the replay so you end up watching the replay and going over those in your mind. It's difficult, man.

"The bottom line is, pretty or ugly, any way you do it the two points is what matters. We haven't gotten the two points in the last couple of weeks. We've just got to keep on keeping on. We have to make our breaks. If we continue to work hard and maybe clean it up defensively, I think we'll be all right."

The third line of Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau and Brian Rolston was easily the Isles' best in this one, although their offensive woes continued. The trio combined for seven shots on goal and generated several quality chances but failed to get one past Pavelec.

"It's important to correct the things that we didn't do well tonight," Rolston said. "We have to keep our head up, obviously. It starts with practice tomorrow and we take it one step at a time."

The Jets needed less than five minutes to get on the scoreboard, as Kane scored on Winnipeg's first shot of the night. With the teams at even strength, Kane drove to the net, twice picked up his own blocked pass and finally and beat DiPietro with a backhander for his fifth goal of the season.

Kane nearly doubled Winnipeg's lead with 10:47 left in the first, when he was awarded a penalty shot after Isles defenseman Travis Hamonic impeded Kane's breakaway chance. But the Jets' forward fired one off the goal post to keep it a one-goal game. It marked the second time in 11 months that Kane came up empty in the shootout against DiPietro, as he failed to score on a penalty shot against the Isles' goaltender last season on Dec. 11 during an Atlanta Thrashers' 5-4 victory.

New York had several glorious chances to tie the game during the second period, but Pavelec turned the Isles away time and time again. His best stop came midway through, when he slid across the crease to get a pad on Frans Nielsen's one-timer. The Islanders outshot the Jets 19-6 but still trailed 1-0 after 40 minutes.

"I was hoping that we could defend a little bit better throughout the game, but I thought in the second period, there were some things we didn't do very well," Noel said. "He really held the fort for us."

After the Isles failed to generate much offensively for much of the third -- they finished the period with seven shots on goal -- Oduya made it 2-0 when his shot went off the stick of Isles defenseman Andrew MacDonald and past DiPietro at 16:04. It was Oduya's first goal of the season. Burmistrov iced it with an empty-net goal at 17:44.

"I think the guys did a great job in the third period," Pavelec said. "We came back in the third. It was fun. Good teams find a way to win and I'm really happy about our two points tonight."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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