Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov watches the puck as teammate Milan...

Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov watches the puck as teammate Milan Jurcina (27) and Winnipeg Jets' Evander Kane (9) battle in front of the net during the first period. (Feb. 14, 2012) Credit: AP

WINNIPEG, Canada -- A little desperation never hurt anybody, especially if the desperation is taken in moderation. That is the Islanders' new philosophy as they try to step up the urgency without getting panicky.

So they did not lose their poise when they got down a goal early Tuesday night in their most vital game so far this season.

They kept their focus on the little things that win games, such as P.A. Parenteau's pretty redirection of Milan Jurcina's pass at 1:36 of the third, which actually did win the game, a 3-1 triumph over the equally desperate Jets.

They did the big things well, too, such as the 37 saves by Evgeni Nabokov and the power-play goal by Matt Moulson at 3:55 of the second, off a feed from John Tavares, which erased a one-goal deficit and changed the whole tone.

It was a rare game in February, with each team entering with about as much to gain and as much to lose. The Islanders entered four points behind the Jets, who were four points out of the last playoff spot.

But the Islanders have two games in hand, so they were about in the same boat, not being in any position to lose in regulation to the other.

"It felt like that, absolutely," Parenteau said. "You could tell no one wanted to give it away early. It was kind of a patient game. It was a big win for our team."

About as big as they've had this season, or in quite a while, actually. Despite having been in a scoring drought lately, they are only six points out of the final playoff position. And, yes, they're keeping track.

"It's hard not to," Andrew McDonald said. "One night, you're 11th, one night you're 14th. It's so tight back there, you can't help but look. You've got to see what other teams are doing. It's good for competition, it's good for us to keep an eye on it to realize we're right there, we're not that far back."

That had been the Islanders' mind-set all day, even though a person might have expected them to try something dramatic to shake them out of their offensive malaise. They decided to blend extra effort with confidence.

Sure enough, that is just how they got even after Chris Thorburn's goal in the first period put extra fire under the Jets and their raucous full house.

On the power play in the second. Moulson lunged to keep the puck in, and got it to Tavares at the left circle. He passed back to Moulson, who fired it past Ondrej Pavelec.

It was Moulson's 25th, and the 17th time Tavares assisted on one of them.

More important was what it did to the atmosphere at TMS Centre.

"When your special teams do the job, you're usually going to have success," coach Jack Capuano said. "It was a big goal for us, at a key time in the game."

Parenteau built on that at 1:36 of the third, taking a good feed from Brian Rolston, dishing to Jurcina and heading toward the net.

"I think he saw me wide open and made a nice slap shot/pass right to my tape," said Parenteau, who also assisted on Matt Martin's empty-net goal in the final minute. "I think we showed a lot of poise on that play."

They showed poise all night, under cover of desperation.

"It's always like this," Nabokov said. "Once you get to February or March, that's what you're going to get. It's almost a playoff."

More Islanders