Wednesday, March 05, 2014
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Islanders overcome distractions to edge Jets in OT

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[March 05, 2014]  WINNIPEG, Manitoba  The New York Islanders ignored the business side of hockey Tuesday night and simply took care of business on the ice.

As trade-deadline drama unfolded all around them, the Islanders were a focused bunch and received full marks for a 3-2 overtime victory over the Winnipeg Jets.

Right winger Michael Grabner scored on a breakaway, his 12th goal of the year, at 3:53 of overtime for the Islanders (24-32-8).

Grabner squeezed through a pair of Winnipeg defenders  Zach Bogosian and Jacob Trouba  raced in alone on goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and made good on a shot to the low blocker side.

Left winger and captain Andrew Ladd scored twice in regulation, his 16th and 17th goals of the season, including the tying goal with just over five minutes left in the third period for Winnipeg (30-26-7).

The Islanders, winners of just three of their last 10 games, could have just mailed this one in but did not on the eve of the NHL trade deadline.


Absent from the roster was expert shot-blocking blue-liner Andrew MacDonald, the club's assistant captain, who was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers earlier in the day. Meanwhile, shifty left winger Thomas Vanek was purposely kept out of the lineup in anticipation that he will be traded Wednesday.

Grabner said there was definitely a different vibe in the dressing room prior to the opening faceoff.

"Of course, it's weird. (Vanek) came to the rink with us and then he's told he's not playing. It changes things around," Grabner said. "But we did a great job of focusing on not letting this stuff distract us.

"I don't really try to think about it. I've been traded before. I've been on waivers. It's business. You can't really influence what happens. You have to just stay in the moment, day by day, and after (Wednesday) we'll be all done with it for at least a couple of months again."

New York left goaltender Evgeni Nabokov on the bench and went with little-used Anders Nilsson between the pipes. He entered the game with just one win in eight starts, but put in a solid performance under difficult circumstances.

"Everyone has to be pros. We can't let that affect us, but obviously it's sad losing teammates," said Nilsson, who made 36 saves. "It's a part of hockey. But I think we answered back and battled through it, so I'm happy.

"You have to be in your own bubble, for every guy. You can't let that affect you. Everyone knows it's the trading deadline. But we still have a job to do, to play hockey, good hockey."

Islanders' coach Jack Capuano said he was impressed by the grit and determination shown by his club.

"Most guys know that this time of year is difficult, but I thought we were focused, we were ready, against a big, strong hockey team that's playing really well," said Capuano.

"It was difficult. I've been around Andrew (MacDonald) a long time and watched him grow in this league. He's been a great player for us, a great team guy and a great friend to a lot of guys, so it's tough the first game without him. And obviously Thomas has been with us since the start of the year. We all know it's a business, and every guy will tell you that we wish him the best of luck, both of those guys."


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With the point, the Jets are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games, and 11-3-2 since Paul Maurice took over as head coach in mid-January.

Winnipeg is battling the likes of the Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, so even a point on home ice was huge Tuesday.

"I thought we came out tight, but we battled back and got a lot of chances and found a way to get it to overtime," Ladd said. "I think we'll take the positive of getting one point and move on."

With the clubs playing four-on-four hockey, Ladd took a pass from center Olli Jokinen at center ice and broke in alone on Nilsson, firing over the young netminder's right shoulder with just 5:07 left in the third period to knot the game at 2.

Right winger Colin McDonald, with his fifth goal of the season, and center Anders Lee, with his third, scored singles for the Islanders.

Pavelec stopped 24 shots for Winnipeg.

The Islanders continue a swing through Western Canada with games in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in the next six days.

The Jets host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night and the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon.

"(The effort was) not good enough to get a win, but it was good enough to get a point," offered Maurice. "We'll learn how to handle this. No one's going to sulk. We'll go out and play a hell of a game against L.A."


NOTES: The game was the 16th of Paul Maurice's tenure behind the Jets bench, but more significantly it was the 1,100th of his NHL head coaching career. Entering Tuesday night, he had compiled a career record of 471-460-168 with the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs and Jets. ... The Isles were coming off two home losses after dropping a 6-1 decision to New Jersey on Saturday and falling 5-3 to Florida. New York came into the game just 2-7-1 in its last 10. ... Winnipeg ranked fifth in the league in penalty-kill efficiency (84.6 percent), hits (1,747) and blocked shots (961) going into Tuesday's action. ... Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is a former first-round pick of the Islanders (16th overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft). ... Islanders LW Matt Martin came into the game as the NHL leader in hits with 275. That is nothing new for the 24-year-old, who has led the league in each of the last two seasons. ... G Ondrej Pavelec has won four games this season when facing 40 or more shots in the Winnipeg net. ... Islanders D Travis Hamonic of St. Malo, Manitoba, served a one-game suspension on Sunday after he was assessed a game misconduct for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of Saturday's game with the New Jersey Devils. In the process, he tied a franchise record for penalty minutes in a period, registering 32 in the third.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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