Nielsen scores 2 goals as Islanders top Jets 5-2
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Ryan Strome has done just fine in avoiding a sophomore slump.
The Islanders' second-year forward enjoyed a career-high, four-point game with a goal and three assists, and New York beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 on Wednesday.
His linemate Frans Nielsen chipped in with two goals and an assist.
''I just wanted to fit in,'' said the 21-year-old Strome, who has played in all 37 games this season. That matched the number he played in his rookie season with the Islanders. ''At the beginning, I had some trouble finding my spot in training camp.
''The coaches kind of threw me a bone and I thought I played well enough to stick around. I'm just trying to take the ball and run with it.''
His other linemate, Anders Lee, also netted a goal and added an assist, and Josh Bailey scored into an empty net for New York (25-11-1), 6-1-1 in its last eight games.
''It's not every night you get four points,'' Strome said. ''I don't like to judge the game based on the points, but it's definitely good to contribute.
''I think our line had a pretty good game.''
Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd scored both goals for the Jets (19-12-7). It was the first back-to-back losses for the Jets since late November. They lost to Minnesota on Monday.
''You don't want to become complacent,'' Ladd said. ''For me, it stings and you still have a tough feeling in this room, but at the same time we're in the mix of a pretty big battle here to keep going and find a way to get points.''
Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves for the win.
Ondrej Pavelec started for the first time since rookie Michael Hutchinson was tabbed for Winnipeg's previous three games and stopped 28 shots.
Strome scored his seventh goal of the season midway through the first period off an odd bounce in traffic around the net.
After the puck went high in the air to the right of Pavelec, Jets defenseman Adam Pardy tried to bat it away. The puck dropped to the ice and hit Lee and then Strome before going into the net at 10:04.
''Ryan's a skill guy, but a lot of skill guys don't perform well in the NHL,'' Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. ''It takes a little bit of time because they don't want to play without the puck.
''Everyone can play with the puck. His game away from the puck has picked up. He had to get to the interior. He had to get to those tough, greasy areas if he wanted to perform, because a lot of his points in the American League were outside.''
Nielsen made it 2-0 just 16 seconds into a two-man advantage late in the period.
As Johnny Boychuk fired a one-timer, his stick broke. The puck went across to Nielsen at the right side of the net for a goal at 18:16.
Ladd scored just 1 second after a New York penalty expired off Blake Wheeler's pass from behind the net at 4:41. Wheeler extended his point streak to four games. He has two goals and three assists in that span.
Nielsen did the bulk of the work for his second goal of the game and eighth of the season following a Winnipeg turnover.
After skating down the boards with the puck, Nielsen made a drop pass to Strome and then went across to the circle. Strome sent the puck to him and he fired it by Pavelec at 15:27 to make it 3-1.
''It's a line that we put together recently,'' Capuano said. ''The last couple of games it's been good for us.''
Ladd used a man advantage to score his 14th goal of the season 47 seconds into the third period off a pass from Mathieu Perreault to the slot.
Bryan Little assisted on the goal to extend his point streak to five games. He has two goals and four assists during the spurt.
Lee scored his ninth of the season at 11:35 after the puck bounced off a couple of Jets players during a scramble at the corner of the net.
Bailey scored into an empty net at 19:28.
NOTES: The Islanders played the first of a seven-game trip that continues Saturday at Calgary. ... The Jets continue their four-game homestand on Saturday against Toronto.