It was a wild one in Winnipeg, but the Islanders pulled out a win thanks to John Tavares’s game winner in the shootout.
“It was a big two points,” head coach Jack Capuano said after the win. “It gets to a skills competition there and they come down to the last shooter and they get a great goal from Ladd. And fortunately Johnny puts it through his legs, so we’ll take the points anyway we can.”
The points were indeed big for the Islanders. They move into a tie for fifth place with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who the Islanders beat on Thursday, and secured that they would finish no less than ninth place this season.
The first three shooters in the shootout came up empty before Brad Boyes got one by Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec. Andrew Ladd answered right back for Winnipeg, but Tavares snuck one through to get the Isles the win.
“I think you go down there with an idea of what you’d like to do,” Tavares said when asked about the goal. “I benefited from going third there and seeing what a couple guys did already and try to get a read.”
The matchup had a playoff feel with both teams needing the two points.
“They played a physical, maybe more than they usually do,” Tavares said. “We like to be a physical team as well, so this time of year there is going to be lots of those games. The refs let a little bit more go… We know how important each point is, so it’s to be expected.”
The game started off with Frans Nielsen firing the puck through Pavelec’s five-hole to five the Islanders a 1-0 lead, 4:21 into the period. Zach Bogosian tied the game at one. Josh Bailey scored less than two minutes later to put the Islanders back in the lead.
Matt Martin gave the Isles a two goal lead with a goal at 9:47, but two goals by Kyle Wellwood moments apart from one another tied th game at three.
Michael Grabner put the Isles back in front 9:13 into the third, but a power play goal late in the game by Bryan Little forced the into overtime and eventually into the shootout.
Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves in the win for the Isles, while his counterpart made 24 saves.
The Islanders will have two days in between now and their next game when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. They could potentially clinch a post season birth that night if the Jets lose to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.