The New York Islanders bring a two-game winning streak to Winnipeg on Thursday night to face a Jets team trying to rebound from back-to-back losses to start a six-game homestand.
New York defeated the Florida Panthers, 3-2, in a shootout on Saturday and then followed that up with a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday.
The Islanders trailed that contest 2-0 with less than six minutes to go before getting goals by Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal, the latter coming with 26.5 seconds left in regulation. Barzal, whose tying goal deflected in off the stick of Ryan O'Reilly, then set up Devon Toews for the game-winner at the 1:13 mark of OT.
"We didn't give up, we came out in the third and just stayed with it," Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. "Just stayed with it and were rewarded at the end. ... That was a really good test for us."
"Sometimes, as Barry would say, the hockey gods were in our favor tonight," Barzal added. "I got a lucky bounce on my goal. Obviously, that's crazy luck there, and that's how it goes sometimes. You get a bounce here or there and it sparks the group. The last five minutes we had great energy there. It was a roller coaster of a game."
Considering how it came against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, Trotz was asked if the comeback could end up being a signature win for his team looking back at the end of the season.
"We'll see where it is, we'll see our next game," Trotz said. "I mean, we can pat ourselves on the back today (and then) we can go into the next game and stink the joint out. We've done that before. The whole thing for me is let's just win the day, let's just win the game, win the week, and let's not look too far ahead."
Winnipeg, which had won four of its previous five games, comes in off home losses to Pittsburgh (7-2) on Sunday and Arizona (4-2) on Tuesday. The Coyotes snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Jets.
"We still have the majority of the season left, so I think we're still trying to establish ourselves and figure out our identity as a team," captain Blake Wheeler said. "We're very much a work in progress."
Wheeler said there was no need to push the panic button despite being outscored 11-4 in back-to-back home losses.
"We're a competitive group," said Wheeler. "We've come to work every single day since training camp, and that is a great thing to fall back on."
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice agreed with Wheeler that the Jets, who finished one point behind Nashville in the Central Division with 99 points last season, are still trying to establish their identity.
"Every team in the National Hockey League is right now," Maurice said. "We're so early. Teams that are on a hot streak are feeling pretty good. There's lots of hockey ahead of them. Teams that are .500 like us like parts of their game and don't like parts of their game. And all the teams that are under (.500) by a little bit don't like any part of their game. But it's early."
--Field Level Media