December 30, 2014

The New York Islanders weren't particularly pleased with their latest win, but the Winnipeg Jets probably wouldn't mind stumbling upon one under such circumstances right about now.

The Islanders play the sixth of a seven-game road trip Thursday night in Winnipeg, and the Jets need a win to avoid matching their worst home losing streak since moving from Atlanta.

New York's 3-2 win in Vancouver on Tuesday got it to 4-1-0 to start the trip, though it was outshot 33-24, had only nine shots through 40 minutes, and all three of its goals went in off Canucks defensemen.

"The positive thing is you end up winning it," said Thomas Hickey, who had the game-winning goal for his second in three games and added an assist. "But to a man in here I think we all understand that's not going to win too many hockey games. Our goalie sort of bailed us out there and we got lucky."

More often than not, however, the Islanders (34-20-7) have been earning their wins. They've allowed 11 goals over a 5-1-1 span, and though they gave up a power-play goal to the Canucks, their league-leading penalty kill has taken care of 24 of 27 chances (88.9 percent) in the last 11 games.

Strong goaltending has also had something to do with it as Thomas Greiss played for the first time in nearly two weeks and made 32 saves. Starter Jaroslav Halak figures to face the Jets and has a 1.24 goals-against average over a 3-1-0 span since giving up six goals in a loss to Carolina on Feb. 13. Halak has won his only two career games in Winnipeg with a 1.92 GAA.

He wasn't in goal when the Islanders opened the season series with a 4-2 home win on Oct. 12, and they've won the last three meetings in Winnipeg as part of a 6-0-2 road span against the Winnipeg-Atlanta franchise.

That fits with how the Jets (26-32-4) have played at home recently. Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Florida was their fifth straight there, and the only time since moving from Atlanta for the 2011-12 season they've gone beyond this was a 0-3-3 span from Nov. 18-Dec. 14, 2013. The latest streak has come all in regulation as part of a 2-10-0 home stretch since the calendar turned to 2016.

"Just one of those things," Dustin Byfuglien said. "We try. It's not because of lack of effort. It's just, things ain't gone our way."

The defenseman scored to extend his point streak to a season-best six games, and he has five goals and 10 assists in his last 15 contests.

Winnipeg led 2-1 entering the third period but gave up two goals in the final 20 minutes. Over the last five games, it's been outscored 10-4 in the third period, which accounts for more than half of the 18 goals the Jets have given up in that span.

"We didn't play the third period the way we played the first two," coach Paul Maurice told the team's official website. "We were much better through two periods defensively, and that was the foundation of what we had going."

It was the sixth straight game they've surrendered at least three goals. Ondrej Pavelec has a 3.52 GAA over a 0-3-1 span, while Michael Hutchinson's last four games have produced a 1-2-0 record and a 3.32 GAA. Pavelec has yielded at least three goals in each game of a 1-3-2 stretch against the Islanders.

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