NEW YORK â€” The well-rested and high-scoring Winnipeg Jets took advantage of a New York Islanders team that looked tired Thursday night.
Bryan Little scored twice, Connor Hellebuyck made 27 saves and the Jets beat the Islanders 4-2 to snap a four-game skid.
Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry also scored for the Jets, who had their game Tuesday in Newark, New Jersey, against the Devils postponed because of a snowstorm.
Little scored twice in the first period after Islanders defenceman Adam Pelech opened the scoring 38 seconds in. Perreault and Lowry each scored in the second.
“Sometimes the puck just comes to you,” said Little, who reached the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in his 10-year career. “My linemates did a really good job of getting pucks to me. It’s nice to help the team win games.”
The Jets came into the game 0-3-1 in their last four and 2-8-2 against Metropolitan Division opponents this season. Winnipeg had also lost four straight to the Islanders.
But after Pelech scored his second goal of the season on a floating shot that eluded Hellebuyck, the Islanders couldn’t capitalize on momentum generated by their 3-2 comeback win in overtime at Carolina on Tuesday a night after they lost 8-4 at home to the Hurricanes.
“We didn’t execute well and they are a dangerous team,” said Islanders captain John Tavares, who assisted on Pelech’s goal. “We dug ourselves a hole. It’s hard to do that game in and game out this time of year.”
Little tied it at 9:22 after Nikolaj Ehlers’ shot hit the post to the right of goalie Thomas Greiss. Little was there to tap in the rebound.
Little scored again on the power play at 18:35. After John Tavares overskated the puck, Jets forward Nic Petan recovered it and passed to Little who rifled the puck past Greiss for his 20th goal of the season. Ehlers also assisted.
The home team’s play was uninspired to start the second and the Jets took advantage when Perreault made it 3-1 at 3:24. Perreault’s eighth goal of the season was assisted by Jets captain Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.
Lowry increased the lead to 4-1 with his 12th goal of the season at 11:31.
The Jets dominated the middle period, outshooting the Islanders 13-8 as the Barclays Center crowd of 13,700 grew restless and began booing the home team, which was playing their third game in four nights following a nine-game trip.
“We looked like a team that practiced twice in the last 25 days,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “Our structure wasn’t good.”
Early in the third, Islanders forward Anders Lee scored his career-high 26th goal at 1:02, sweeping the puck past Hellebuyck from the slot to narrow the deficit to 4-2.
But Hellebuyck held his ground the rest of the way for his 23rd win of the season. The Jets are well outside of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but Hellebuyck remains confident.
“We played the right way tonight,” the netminder said. “We’re not giving up. We’re going to take this thing as far as we can.”
With 12 games remaining, the Islanders (33-26-11) are battling Toronto and Tampa Bay in a tight race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Maple Leafs beat the Lightning 5-0 to retake the last post-season slot by one point over the Islanders and Tampa Bay. The regular season ends on April 9.
New York is 16-9-3 under Weight, who took over from Jack Capuano on Jan. 17. The Islanders are 20-10-6 at home but have dropped their last two games in Brooklyn in alarming fashion for a team trying to reach the playoffs for the third straight season.
“We weren’t good enough tonight,” the coach said. “We’ve got to step it up.”
NOTES: Greiss stopped 24 of 28 shots. … The Islanders are 1-19-8 when scoring fewer than three goals … New York scratched forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Shane Prince and defencemen Johnny Boychuk and Scott Mayfield … Winnipeg was without defencemen Jacob Trouba for the second straight game because of an upper-body injury.
Islanders: Host Columbus on Saturday.
Jets: Host Minnesota on Sunday.
Allan Kreda, The Associated Press