WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Scoring hasn’t been a problem for the Islanders this season, but on Friday night, they ran into Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who stopped just about everything they threw at him in a 4-2 Jets win.
Hellebuyck made 42 saves to stymie the Isles, many of them of the eye-popping variety.
“We peppered ’em. [Helle buyck] was good tonight. I thought both goalies were good,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “We had some point-blank chances where we got good wood on the shots and he made some five-star saves at key times for them. When you get close to 50 shots, you can’t complain too much.”
Hellebuyck had 37 saves through 40 minutes as Winnipeg brought a 2-1 lead into the third period. The Jets got the lead back to two goals when Kyle Connor’s soft shot banked off Dennis Seidenberg’s skate and through Jaroslav Halak’s legs at 3:01. Blake Wheeler had a skate in the blue paint of the crease and Weight took a long look at the replay but decided not to challenge.
The Isles didn’t record a shot on goal in the third until the 9:40 mark, when Hellebuyck robbed Andrew Ladd from in close during an Islanders power play. The Jets salted it away at 12:03 of the third when Adam Lowry tipped Jacob Trouba’s point shot past Halak on the power play.
Anders Lee scored his second of the night and 24th of the season with 3:32 left. The regulation loss marked the first time the Isles haven’t gotten a point here since the Atlanta Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets in the 2011-12 season.
Hellebuyck’s magic began in the game’s first minute as he stretched his right pad to stop Ladd’s try on a two-on-one. Jordan Eberle was denied seconds later from prime scoring territory.
The Islanders had a bushel of good chances in the first two periods. They recorded 19 shots on Hellebuyck in each of the first two periods but had only one get past him. John Tavares won a draw in the Winnipeg zone and sat back into shooting position as Josh Bailey retrieved the puck. Tavares whistled one that ticked off Lee’s leg and under the crossbar. That goal at 14:46 of the second brought the Islanders within a goal, but they got no closer.
The Isles fell into an early hole after being denied on those two good chances and seeing the Jets convert soon after. Shawn Matthias, a healthy scratch in 20 of the previous 21 games, worked the puck off Brock Nelson and drove the net to chip a rebound past Halak at 2:32 of the first.
The Islanders pressed well the remainder of the period, but a couple of breakdowns gave the Jets a 2-0 lead. Steve Bernier could not reach a puck as it neared the Winnipeg line and the Jets turned the play back quickly, catching Ryan Pulock drifting up toward the play. The Jets blew past him for a three-on-one and Connor fed Wheeler for a tap-in at 16:57.
Despite pumping so many shots on goal, the Isles didn’t get much from their third line. Shane Prince, Nelson and Bernier struggled at times and could not sustain the sort of pressure and chances generated by the top two lines as well as the fourth line.
“If we do what we did tonight, we’re going to win a lot more games than we lose,” Lee said. “Their goalie was good and you tip your cap to him.”