Home ice has not been kind to the Winnipeg Jets in 2016.
After opening the season 11-5-1 at MTS Centre, the calendar turned and so has the team’s fortunes at home. The Jets have now dropped 11 of 13 decisions since the start of the New Year after the visiting New York Islanders got a 4-3 overtime win Thursday night. The Isles are now 6-0-1 in 7 visits to The Peg- 2.0.
The Jets were oh-so-close to snapping the losing skid. Mark Scheifele broke a 2-2 tie with just 2:03 to go with his second of the game, but the Islanders pulled their goalie and tied the game thanks to a Nick Leddy blast with 28 seconds left.
Winnipeg opened the overtime frame with all the momentum and chances, but as often happens in 3-on-3 action, the game can be flipped on one play. Just over halfway through the extra period, a wrist shot caught Nikolaj Ehlers in the face, and to literally add insult to injury Kyle Okposo immediately potted the puck into the net for the winner.
“Nik’s going to be fine. It’s a highly unusual play that ends up being the game winner,” head coach Paul Maurice explained. “The second period slowed down again. We were in the box for six [minutes] and that’s part of it. I liked the way we played in the third when they got ahead.”
Just like in their game Tuesday night against Florida, the Jets came flying out the gates in the first period. Scheifele opened the scoring on the power play late in the frame and the Jets outshot the visitors 15-6.
The second was a penalty-filled affair but it was at even strength that the Islanders tied the game. Calvin de Haan’s second of the year came on a wrist shot that handcuffed Michael Hutchinson.
The Islanders took the lead 8:32 into the third but just under 90 seconds later Tyler Myers tied it. The pace of play quickened and no penalties were taken in the third. After Scheifele gave the Jets the lead again he came close to an empty netter for the hat trick, but it was not to be for him or his team.
“When you play a game like that, get as many chances as we had, penalty killed well, it’s obviously tough,” Scheifele said. “It sucks. We battled our hearts out. The biggest key for us right now is that we can’t get down on ourselves. It sucks, but that’s hockey. All teams have gone through this once in their lifetime.”
So why can’t the Jets close the deal at home?
“We didn’t play well enough here,” Maurice stated bluntly, followed by roughly seven seconds of silence before he left the postgame press conference.
The Jets will now try to snap their six-game losing streak Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. Puck drop is 6 p.m.