(John Tavares – @NYIslanders)
The Islanders approached Monday’s game with the Winnipeg Jets on Monday afternoon at Barclays Center with what John Tavares called a “do-or-die mentality.”
This was because they only got one out of four points in the home-and-home with the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday and Saturday. They know they already have to keep pace with the Rangers, who have won their first three games to get the early lead in the brutal Metropolitan Division.
Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said of the win, “We just played Islander hockey. We talk about it all the time. I know we didn’t have success against Chicago, but if you watched us play tonight, the focus, the preparation, from the drop of the puck, we dominated the game.”
Tavares led the way with a goal and two assists, as the Islanders won it 4-2 and, more importantly, dominated throughout.
Tavares said of the win compared to the games against Chicago, “We seemed to be more in sync and we were hungry on the puck. There was a lot more familiarity here and that made a big difference.”
The Islanders’ offense dominated throughout this one, and the shot totals were stunning. They outshot Winnipeg 16-6 in the first period, then 20-9 in the second for a two-period total of 36-15. Winnipeg outshot the Islanders 9-8 in the third, so for the game the difference was 44-24 Islanders. They did this against a team that opened their season with a 6-2 win in Boston on Thursday, followed by a 3-1 win the next night in New Jersey.
Despite the lopsided shot total and four power plays in the first period, the Islanders could not break through for a goal until they were on their fifth power play in the closing seconds of the period.
Kyle Okposo blasted one from the blue line that went off the back boards to Ryan Strome at the left side of the net. Strome buried it, catching Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavalec slow to recover from Okposo’s shot, and it was 1-0 Islanders with 11.8 left in the first.
Capuano said of Strome afterwards, “We talked with Ryan (Sunday), and he knows he had to pick his game up. When you’re on the top line, you’re facing the best the other team has. He knows he needed to be better.”
The second period was a bit different, as it took the Islanders just 6:46 to score. John Tavares, Brock Nelson, and Mikhail Grabovski had an odd-man rush, and Tavares, on the left, found Nelson coming down the right side for a slap shot from about 20 feet out to make it 2-0 Islanders.
Just about four minutes later, Tavares got one of his own off a rebound of a blast from Anders Lee to make it 3-0.
Winnipeg got a goal from Mark Scheifele with 4:39 left in the second, and Dustin Byfuglien scored one on a long shot from the blueline with 8:08 left in the third to make it a one-goal game at 3-2 Islanders.
The Islanders held tough and did not give Winnipeg a real high-quality chance in the final eight minutes, and Josh Bailey sealed it with an empty net with 19 seconds left that made it 4-2.
Bailey said of the win, “It was a little closer than I would have liked at the end, but ultimately a good win for our team here and a good way to start this little homestand.”
On holding on with a one-goal lead late, Bailey said, “I think those are tests you face throughout the course of a season. We passed tonight, and it’s gonna take a lot of hard work going forward, and I think the more it happens, the more familiar we get with those situations, the more you learn how to play. I think we know what it takes to get it done, it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”
Bailey said of the first win in Brooklyn, “It’s big, I think someone touched on it before the game. I think we had a good first outing here, just didn’t get the result, but it was nice to get it tonight for sure.”
On beating a team like Winnipeg after the strong start they had to their season, Bailey said, “They’re a good team. I think there’s no easy games anymore. I think every team you play, any given night, you’ve gotta bring your best or else it’s gonna be tough to manufacture points.”
Strome said of the win, “I think we’re most excited for ourselves. It’s great for Brooklyn and great for the fans who have been lous and supportive.”
Capuano said of being more comfortable playing at Barclays Center, “It could always take a little bit of time. I thought after the three preseason games, but again we didn’t dress our full lineup in preseason, so guys are getting adjusted now with the ice and with the boards and everything that goes along with it. We don’t get to practice here much, but I think we played pretty good tonight if that’s any indication of where we are.”
Thomas Greiss was in net for the second time this season in place of Jaroslav Halak and had a great game, making 22 saves.
Capuano said of Greiss, “Our goaltender made big saves when he had to. And his communication with our defense alleviated pressure for us.”
Greiss said afterwards, “It’s always good to get the win, work on some things here and there, but overall, pretty good.”
Greiss said of the fact they shut Winnipeg down for most of the game, “Give the team a lot of credit, they played real well in front of me. They didn’t give them much room and many opportunities to score here.”