After having been winners of three-straight, the Winnipeg Jets have now lost three-in-a-row at home.
The Jets squandered an early lead, falling 3-1 to the New York Islanders on Thursday evening at Bell MTS Place.
Mat Barzal had two goals, while netminder Semyon Varlamov picked up 32 saves on 33 shots to help the Islanders improve to 4-3-0 on the season. Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 23 of 25 shots, while Nikolaj Ehlers scored for Winnipeg, who has now fallen to 4-5-0 in the 2019-20 season.
The Jets easily put up their best first period of the 2019-20 season, directing 16 shots on Semyon Varlamov, 11 more than the Islanders’ five shots through 20 minutes. Although aided by two separate man advantages, the opportunities continued to flow for the Jets in the opening period.
Nikolaj Ehlers got Winnipeg on the board with a power play wrister that beat Varlamov clean, far side, top shelf. The 23-year-old’s third of the season was assisted by defencemen Neal Pionk and Ville Heinola. Ehlers finished the first period with six shot attempts, four of which reached the goal.
The middle stanza belonged to Mat Barzal, who collected two tallies in the second period, helping the Islanders to a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes. After failing to register a shot on net for the first eight minutes of play, New York found the twine on its first shot, a Barzal cross-ice, one-timer.
The Jets – who had been pressuring Varlamov and the Islanders for the opening eight minutes, continued to struggle on the penalty kill, giving up Barzal’s early tally while Dmitry Kulikov took in the view from the penalty box.
With exactly 17 seconds to go in the period, Barzal added his second of the game on a shifty play he created back in the Islanders’ defensive zone. The Isles’ first line centreman carried the puck up ice before ripping it past Hellebuyck with another sweet shot, silencing those gathered at Bell MTS Place a handful of seconds too soon. Through 40 minutes, Winnipeg maintained a 24-17 shot lead on the visitors from Long Island.
The third period was a wash for both clubs, as the only tally came with 27 seconds to go, as Josh Bailey potted an empty-net, insurance marker, sealing the deal for New York.
After being scratched the past three games, Ville Heinola contributed with an assist, while Josh Morrissey continued to shine his offensive light, registering another point after missing two games with a concussion.
Winnipeg will look to turn things around Sunday when the red-hot Edmonton Oilers roll into town for a 6:00 PM Western Conference matchup. The game can be viewed live on Sportsnet and ESPN1.