By Carter Brooks
Photos by Bahia Taylor
You can call it an epic collapse, a failure, a missed opportunity. Thursday evening was not a good night for Winnipeg.
Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders rolled into town Thursday for a battle with the current Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets. And despite falling behind early, the Islanders – relying on Manitoba-born defenceman Ryan Pulock – surprised many, clawing their way back to beat the Jets 5-4 with two goals in 33 seconds within the game’s final two minutes of play.
Despite the loss, things began perfectly for Winnipeg, and seemed to carry on that direction for the majority of the inter-conference battle. Missed opportunities would be the name of the game for the Jets, who failed to capitalize on many a chance with man advantages in the second and third periods.
Adam Lowry’s fifth career multi-goal game (and second of the season) was overshadowed by a monumental collapse late in the third period, as visiting goaltender Robin Lehner pulled all the stops, outdueling Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck in a battled of the backstops.
The Jets got things going almost immediately on Thursday, as the home team found the twine just 13 seconds into the opening frame. Before fans could even get comfortable in their seats, they were out of them cheering as Adam Lowry redirected his ninth goal of the season past New York netminder Robin Lehner.
Brandon Tanev did all the legwork on the goal, carrying the puck hard into the Islanders’ zone before cutting hard to the net, and banking the puck in off Lowry’s skate. It took that Lowry, Tanev and Bryan Little line just six more minutes to find their second goal of the game. Tanev set Jacob Trouba up for a point shot, who hammered the puck off Lowry’s stick and in, giving Winnipeg a two-goal lead early on.
Midway through the frame, New York found a goal of their own, as Mat Barzal collected a great offensive zone feeder pass and walked past the Jets’ defence, before firing the puck past Connor Hellebuyck low, short side. The first period ended with the Jets holding a significant 18-12 shot lead, and a 2-1 advantage overall.
Brandon Tanev picked right up where he left off to begin the second period. After Nathan Beaulieu walked around the blueline with the puck, Tanev collected a pass and stepped into a hard wrist shot from the top of the circle. His seeing eye shot beat Lehner cleanly, restoring Winnipeg’s two-goal lead.
But with both Mathieu Perreault and Tyler Myers in the Jets’ penalty box, the Islanders moved the puck well, ultimately leading to a power play goal against. Grandview, Manitoba’s Ryan Pulock’s hammered a one-time point shot that found itself redirected by Anders Lee and past Hellebuyck, making the game 3-2. The Isles took over the puck possession battle in the second frame, putting together 19 shots in the middle stanza, walking away with a 31-26 lead after 40 minutes.
With Josh Bailey in the box for slashing, Mark Scheifele and the Jets’ power play finally struck. Another Jacob Trouba point shot found its way past Lehner by way of deflection – this time off the perfectly placed stick of Scheifele. The goal was the Winnipeg Jets’ top-line centreman’s 36thof the season.
It was all downhill from there for the home team.
With help from Ryan Pulock, Jordan Eberle potted his 16thof the season with 12 minutes to go, bringing the score to within one goal. Then, following a successful late-game penalty kill, Pulock and the Islanders knotted the game up at fours, as the former Brandon Wheat Kings’ captain hammered a point shot through Hellebuyck. Casey Cizikas tapped it into the cage, much to the disbelief of the Winnipeg netminder.
Jordan Eberle capped the comeback on New York’s 42ndshot of the game, sealing the deal for the visitors. In picking up the win, the Islanders improved their record to 45-26-7, hanging just three points back of the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division. In losing their second-straight, Winnipeg is now just two points up on Nashville and four points ahead of St. Louis for first place in the Central.
Next up for the Jets is another battle with a playoff-hungry team, as the Montreal Canadiens come to town on Saturday for the final home game of the 2018-19 season. Winnipeg will then head out on a four-game road trip to conclude the year with stops in Chicago, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona. Saturday’s game will be available to view on Sportsnet at 6:15 PM central.