NEW YORK — If Thursday’s game felt like a familiar story, it’s probably because it was.
After a strong start to the Islanders meeting with the Winnipeg Jets and a goal 38 seconds into the game, New York saw their performance drop off and eventually lost 4-2 to an opponent with not much left to play for. After Adam Pelech scored in the first period the Jets rattled off three goals in the first and second period before the Islanders could respond.
The Islanders are 2-3-0 in their last five games and their 8-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday was eerily similar to Thursday’s loss.
“We just didn’t play smart and we didn’t look like we had a lot of jump,” Islanders interim head coach Doug Weight said. “You’re not going to win one, lose one, win one, lose one and go into the playoffs. It’s just not going to happen. Guys are going to win games right now. It’s what time of year it is.
“Teams like this are going to come in and show you that they have a lot of character and they’re well coached, and they’re going to play hard against you. So, we have to step it up and find a way in the next eight, nine games.”
Thursday’s loss pushed the Islanders back out of a playoff spot with Toronto defeating Tampa Bay 5-0 and jumping ahead of New York by a point in the standings. The Islanders have been battling Tampa and Toronto for the final wild card spot and New York needed a win to remain in possession of it.
The Islanders scored the game’s first and last goals with Pelech starting things off with a blast from the point that beat Jets’ starter Connor Hellebuyck. The goal was Pelech’s second goal of the season and his career.
New York’s only other goal came with the team down 4-1 early in the third period. Anders Lee notched his 26th goal of the year.
However, it was the four goals the Jets scored that turned the tide. Bryan Little helped kick things off scoring his first of two goals at 9:22 to tie the game. He scored just over nine minutes later to give the Jets their first lead of the night at 18:35.
It took Matheiu Perreault 3:24 into the second period to put the Jets up by two and Adam Lowry scored Winnipeg’s fourth goal at 11:31 to put them ahead 4-1.
“I think we have some really good stretches throughout games and sometimes we’re just too easy,” John Tavares said. “Soft in some areas and others are going to make plays and capitalize if we’re not making it tough on them.”
Part of what Doug Weight thought he saw on the ice on Thursday was the play of team that was tired. The Islanders have had their fair share of travel, and not a lot of practice, over the last few weeks. The Islanders wrapped up a nine-game road trip on Saturday before playing a home-and-home with Carolina on Monday and Tuesday.
And then the Islanders hosted the Jets on Thursday in their 12th game in the last 25 days.
“We looked a little bit like a tired team mentally,” Weight said. “We looked like a team that’s practiced twice in the last 25 days to be honest with you. Circling starts building in your game. You can watch video until you’re blue in the face, but you need to get out and work on things that translate to your effort in a game and on the ice. Battle level with each other, they were rolling off of us, they were quicker to the puck and our structure wasn’t good. That’s what we look like.”
The Islanders schedule doesn’t get any easier from here with a tough stretch of games ahead of them, starting on Saturday with Columbus. The Blue Jackets put a 7-0 beating on the Islanders to end February and picking up points against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference will be crucial.
“It’s a huge game on Saturday,” said Anders Lee. “We have to turn it right around. This is the point of the season we have to come back and rebound. A Good team is come into our building and we have to be ready now.”