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New York Islanders

Islanders Jolt Back To Life Against Jets



AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

ELMONT, NY– The hopes of making the playoffs for the New York Islanders seemed to be dead in the water.

But after snapping a six-game losing skid with a 6-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon at UBS Arena, the Islanders now at least have a pulse.

“That’s exactly what we were hoping to see,” head coach Patrick Roy said. “Sometimes you don’t get rewarded for what you do. Today we were.”

The Islanders began the afternoon with, by far, the strongest 20 minutes of play they’ve put together in their last handful of games.

Cal Clutterbuck opened the scoring at 5:22 of the first period, crashing the net and putting home his own rebound for an unassisted goal.

The veteran winger had a little more help when he made it a 2-0 Islanders lead. Off feeds from Matt Martin and Alexander Romanov, Clutterbuck ripped a shot from the left wing past Winnipeg netminder Connor Hellebuyck for his second goal of the game and seventh of the season.

“Martin made a great play,” Clutterbuck said. “I was just trying to take my ice and, and buy time for MacLean to get to the back post. At the last minute, I just didn’t feel like it was there, so I just decided to let one fly.”

Vladislav Namestnikov put the Jets got on the board at 11:20 of the first, but the Islanders never let up as Kyle Palmieri scored his 22nd goal of the season to make it a 3-1 game heading into the second period.

The lead quickly grew for the Islanders when Hudson Fasching scored his fourth goal of the season just 1:51 after the teams emerged from the locker room. By the time Mathew Barzal made it 5-1 at 9:11 of the middle frame, the Islanders had successfully chased Hellebuyck from the game. The presumed favorite to win this year’s Vezina Trophy looked anything but for Winnipeg, stopping just 22 of the 27 shots he faced.

Laurent Brossoit didn’t provide much relief for the Jets once he took over in the crease, allowing a goal to  Anders Lee that gave the Islanders a 6-1 advantage entering the second intermission.

The makeshift line of Fasching, Barzal and Lee totaled seven individual points for the Islanders, with Fasching picking up the first three-point game of his career against Winnipeg.

“It feels good to get on the board, just help the team in any way I can,” Fasching said. “It’s been really fun playing with Barzal and Lee. We’re playing well, we’re creating a lot of chances in the last few games.”

While the Jets’ usually steady goaltending faltered, Semyon Varlamov provided the Islanders with the type of solid performance in net that they’ve sorely missed lately.

“He came big for us,” Roy said of Varlamov. “He made some great saves that kept us in it. We didn’t compete as well [in the third period] as we did in the first part of the game. I saw a lot of those games when I was playing. I mean, a 61 lead. It’s human nature, isn’t it? So I guess the guys wanted to see if Varlamov would be sharp or not.”

Varlamov surrendered goals to Mason Appleton and Cole Perfetti in the third period, finishing his second start in more than three weeks with 32 saves on 35 shots.

The two points the Islanders earned against Winnipeg were their first in three games. Now with 75 points this season, they’re just three back of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

“We’ll enjoy it here for about a half hour,” Barzal said. “When we leave the rink today, it’s all about tomorrow. We have such a singular focus right now on every game. That’s our mindset. Every game is so big for us in the standings and, you know, staying alive.”

The Islanders host the New Jersey Devils on Sunday evening at UBS Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 p.m.