Michael Grabner ended a fast-paced, back-and-forth hockey game with a fitting overtime winner.
Grabner took a feed from Cal Clutterbuck at the Islanders blue line, accelerated through the neutral zone and beat Ondrej Pavelec on a breakaway 3:51 into the extra frame for a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. The win was the Islanders 11th in their last 14 road games, as well as their fourth-in-five games at the raucous MTS Centre.
“I saw Clutter [pull a spin-o-rama] in the corner and I just tried to get speed,” Grabner said. “He saw me at the last second and made a great play to the middle. Their defense was standing still and I was able to cut through them.”
Grabner finished the game with a goal and an assist, as did Anders Lee, who now has six points in six career NHL games. Colin McDonald rounded out the scoring for the Islanders, who showed resiliency in the win after giving up the tying goal late in the third period.
“[I was impressed with] how we responded to the second goal,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We battled back and stayed with it.”
The Islanders showed resiliency with a short bench that did not feature Thomas Vanek (healthy scratch), Andrew MacDonald, who was traded to Philadelphia in the afternoon, or Eric Boulton, who left the game with an injured hand. The Islanders penalty kill went a perfect five-for-five, including a critical kill on a delay of game call with 2:56 to play in the third.
“They had all of those consecutive power plays and we had a short bench,” Capuano said. “They had extended-zone time and it wore us down a little bit, but I thought our guys stayed with it, stayed the course. With everything that’s going right now, it’s about staying together.”
Jets captain Andrew Ladd scored twice for the home team, including the tying goal on a breakaway with 5:07 to play in regulation. Ladd opened the scoring 11 minutes into the first period, spinning off a check in the slot and sliding the puck underneath Anders Nilsson.
The Islanders answered late in the period, as Colin McDonald capped off some furious pressure, knocking in his fifth of the season after corralling a lively bounce off the end boards.
The Jets outshot the Islanders 17-7 in the second period, but the white-clad Isles came away with the lone goal of the frame. Lee was denied on a breakaway, but showed great patience and poise by waiting for his rebound to drop below the crossbar before batting it into the net.
“Things are clicking right now,” Lee said. “We are working hard as a unit, as a line and as a team. When that happens, things seem to fall into place.”
Nilsson made 36 saves in the win, including all 29 in the final two periods and overtime, while Pavelec stopped 24 in the loss.
The Islanders continue their Western road swing on Thursday night in Edmonton. Puck drop is at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
NOTES: Thomas Vanek was a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s game… Andrew MacDonald was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for a third-round pick in 2014, a second-round pick in 2015 and Matt Mangene… Travis Hamonic led the Islanders with 26:20 TOI… Colin McDonald led the Islanders with six hits.
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