The defensive-minded, brilliantly-coached New York Islanders put a stop to the Winnipeg Jets’ home winning streak on Saturday night.
Heading into the second game of a back-to-back weekend series at Canada Life Centre, the Jets had won all four games at home this season and were in the midst of an eight-game point streak (the second longest in franchise history) when the Isles came to town and blocked 19 Winnipeg shots and helped goalie Ilya Sorokin record a 24-save shutout.
“It was a grinder for us and there were a lot of things that weren’t easy for us to do,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “It was going to be one of those games. Our two best chances don’t go for us and we get an awful lot blocked — but that’s a big part of what they do and how they play.
“We spent enough time in their end but we didn’t manufacture enough second chances. We had possession but we didn’t cause enough chaos. But they’re (the Islanders) built for that. That’s the way they play.”
The Islanders opened the scoring at 3:12 of the first period when Anders Lee took a great pass from josh Bailey and ripped a point-blank shot past Winnipeg goaltender Eric Comrie.
After a scoreless second period, New York’s Brock Nelson scored 47 seconds into the third to make it 2-0, beating Comrie on the the blocker side from the right circle on a two-on-one rush.
And that was it. Comrie made 29 saves but suffered his first loss of the season. Still, the Jets No. 2 goaltender is 3-1-0 on the campaign and has not allowed more than three goals in a game.
Winnipeg is now 6-3-2 on the season while the Islanders, who are playing a record 13 games on the road to start the season, improved to 5-2-2.
The Islanders outshot Winnipeg 31-24, outhit the Jets 26-21 and blocked 19 shots to Winnipeg’s seven. The Jets did win 58 per cent of the face-offs, but that didn’t help them put the puck in the net. From start to finish the Islanders were the better team, although Winnipeg had its share of pressure in the New York zone. Unfortunately, they either couldn’t make the big play or the Islanders responsible defence and back-checking forwards blocked Winnipeg’s shots.
Both teams were zero-for-one on the power play in a quick game that was often reminiscent of the pace of a playoff game.
“It was a back-to-back grinder (the Jets beat Chicago 5-1 on Friday night) and in a game like that you’re hoping to get on the power play a little more and maybe make that work for you,” Maurice said. “Those weren’t there to be had, either. We had some close tip-plays but that didn’t go tonight. Our goaltender was real good, too. It wasn’t an indictment of where we’re at or a game that you flush either. We have some things to learn and we’ll get better.”
On a very concerning note, the Jets Paul Stastny limped to the locker room after blocking a shot in the third period and didn’t return.
“It’s a bruise,” said Maurice. “We’ll find out tomorrow.”
The Jets get at it again on Tuesday night when they play host to the St. Louis Blues at Canada Life Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.