UNIONDALE, N.Y. — When Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart got crunched into the boards early in the second period, the Jets woke up from their doldrums — and that was even before they made the New York Islanders pay on the power play.
A sluggish start put the Jets into a hole, but they snapped out of it, withstood a comeback, and put the finishing touches on a 4-3 win when Andrew Ladd scored his second goal of the game in the third period Oct. 28.
“It definitely feels like we’re kind of growing as a team,” said Bryan Little, who had three assists. “We’re learning fast from our mistakes and we’re doing a better job of kind of handling the game.”
It turned 24 seconds into the second when New York’s Nikolay Kulemin slammed Stuart into the boards in front of the penalty boxes. Kulemin was given a major penalty and was ejected.
The Jets grabbed a 2-1 lead and the momentum. “Getting two goals out of that and getting ahead and being able to play with the lead for a little bit definitely energized our bench,” Ladd said.
The Jets coughed up a 3-1 lead and were tied going into the third, but a turnover by Kyle Okposo led to the winning goal. Ladd put in a rebound of Little’s shot to put Winnipeg ahead to stay at 3:31.
“We didn’t go hard to the net enough to get it done,” said Islanders captain John Tavares, who got New York within 3-2. “You gave a team like that enough chances on the power play and they will hurt you.”
Mikhail Grabovski got the Islanders even at 3 in the second, and Brock Nelson staked New York to a 1-0 lead in the first. Jaroslav Halak stopped 26 shots.
Defensemen Paul Postma and Jacob Trouba also scored for the Jets, who began a four-game trip. Ondrej Pavelec made 18 saves.
“We got our feet moving after the first period,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “The power play gave us some life and we responded well to them coming back on us and played our best hockey in the third.”
Following Kulemin’s hit, Stuart laid on his stomach for several moments. He got up on all fours after being attended to by a trainer and skated off. He returned soon after.
The Jets used the extended power play well as Ladd and Postma scored 2:52 apart during the advantage that generated six shots.
Ladd made it 1-1 at 1:14 when he got to a rebound of Toby Enstrom’s shot and punched it past Halak for his third goal. Postma pushed Winnipeg in front with an unassisted goal. Of the defenseman’s six career NHL goals, three have been scored against the Islanders.
“For some reason I get pucks to the net in this rink and they manage to go in for me,” Postma said.
Winnipeg widened its lead to 3-1 when the teams played 4-on-4. Trouba took a pass from Stuart in the neutral zone, carried the puck into the New York end and snapped a wrist shot from the high slot that ticked off Halak’s glove and carried into the net.
“We lost the game, and bottom line is I need to do better,” Halak said.
The Islanders made the most of a minor boarding penalty by Mark Scheifele on Thomas Hickey when Tavares scored a power-play goal with 5:32 left in the second. Grabovski tied it 1:24 later.
New York drew a hooking penalty on Blake Wheeler just 1:02 in and then capitalized on the power play 14 seconds later when Nelson netted his fifth goal. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk rocketed a shot from the left circle off the left post, and the carom came right to Nelson, who easily steered it into the net.
But New York was only 2 for 5 on the power play, including an advantage in the game’s closing minutes. The Islanders mustered only 12 shots in the final two periods and now head out on a five-game Western trip.
“We had some pretty good chances, but when you don’t move the puck well, you don’t deserve to win,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “It’s going to be a long road trip is we don’t figure it out.”
New York had the better of the play throughout the first period, putting constant pressure on the Winnipeg defense and holding a 9-7 shots edge. “We tired them out in our end,” Maurice said with a laugh. “That was part of the plan.”
(IRA PODELL, AP Hockey Writer)