Michael Grabner sent the fans at Nassau Coliseum home happy as the Islanders won a thrilling 5-4 game against the Winnipeg Jets to wrap up their final home game of the 2011-12 season.
Grabner dropped to one knee and touched the ice after tipping home the winning goal with under a minute left in the game, his second in the back half of the third period.
“We just wanted to finish the season strong,” Grabner said. “We wanted to give the fans a win…and make them excited for next year.”
The game didn’t lack drama as the Jets matched the Islanders goal-for-goal leading up to the final 47 seconds. Thirty-six seconds after Grabner put the Isles up 4-3 on a penalty shot, Dustin Byfuglien tied the score with a slap shot from the point.
Matt Moulson opened the scoring 6:38 into the first period, roofing a shot top shelf over Chris Mason’s left shoulder from below the right faceoff dot.
“A lot of guys said [it wasn’t a typical Moulson goal]. I like to mix a decent one in every now and then,” Moulson joked.
The Islanders rode the momentum as 1:28 later, Josh Bailey faked a shot and fed the puck to Kyle Okposo in the slot who put it past the sprawling Mason.
The Jets responded before the end of the period as a John Tavares turnover to Byfuglien proved costly. The hulking blueliner carried the play up the ice, resulting in Tobias Enstrom’s sixth goal of the season. Jets captain Andrew Ladd tied the score at two with about three minutes remaining in the first, finishing a rebound off of a tipped Zach Bogosian point shot.
Okposo scored his second of the evening sniping a high shot past Mason. With his second assist of the game, Tavares reached 50 for the first time in his career and became the first Islanders player since Pierre Turgeon (56 in 1993-94) to notch 50 in a season.
Bogosian tied the score at three at 7:03 of the third to set up the thrilling conclusion.
PA Parenteau left the game with an ankle sprain after Mark Stuart tripped him on a breakaway in the second period. Parenteau was helped off the ice and did not return.
“We lost Parenteau and other guys picked it up,” Jack Capuano said.
Isles call-up Matt Donovan looked poised in his second career game, as he fired a pass from his own goal line to a streaking Matt Martin at the Jets blue line.
Steve Staios played in his 1,000 career NHL game and was honored prior to the contest. Staios made his debut on Mar. 21, 1996, with the Boston Bruins. Also, All-Star Tavares was named Islander of the Year and Matt Moulson won the 2012 Islanders Good Guy Award.
The Islanders wrap up the 2011-12 season Saturday night on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The final game gets under way at 7 p.m. from Nationwide Arena.