When the sky begins falling, the Jets are only going to go as far as their stars and veterans can take them. On Tuesday night, captain Andrew Ladd showed just why he wears the ‘C’.
In a game that had its fair share of rough and tumble hockey – the teams accrued 39 minutes in penalties between them – the Jets came out on top of the hometown New York Islanders. After an early goal by the Islanders Brock Nelson in the first period, the pace settled for both teams and, soon, the penalty parade began.
Late in the first frame, Cal Clutterbuck caught Mark Scheifele with what looked like a knee-on-knee hit as the young Jets centre cut through center ice. Luckily for the Jets, Scheifele would look no worse for wear, but it began the bad blood between the two squads as Dustin Byfuglien introduced himself to the Isles Clutterbuck.
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As both exchanged words heading to the box, and Byfuglien some additional words for referee Steve Kozari, there was the distinct feeling that something was going to happen between these two teams. Less than a minute into the second period, that moment came, as Islanders off-season acquisition Nikolai Kulemin caught Mark Stuart on a dangerous hit from behind.
Kulemin received a five-minute major and game misconduct on the play, putting the Jets on an extended power play. With the man advantage, the Jets seized the opportunity and equalized the game on a strange play that resulted in an Andrew Ladd tally.
Due to the major, the Jets remained on the power play, and three minutes after Ladd’s marker, defenseman Paul Postma added a strange one of his own. Postma batted at a loose puck that had found its way to the front of the net off a strange bounce off the end board and it managed to find its way past Islanders netminder Jaroslav Halak.
The Jets would add a third goal just over midway through the second frame on a Jacob Trouba wrist shot that somehow found its way through Halak’s glove, but shortly thereafter the walls began to cave in.
Three minutes after Trouba’s score, a John Tavares power play tally came on a scrambled play in front of the Jets goal. Mikhail Grabovski would undress Ondrej Pavelec for the tying marker just over a minute later. In the span of a minute and a half, the Jets had blown their two-goal lead.
Unlike games prior, however, the Jets refused to let the Islanders continue to dictate the outcome of the game. Almost from the moment the Isles tied the contest, the Jets took over in possession. As they continued to bring the game to the Islanders, it seemed inevitable that the Jets tally would come, and eventually they broke through.
The Islanders turned over the puck on a broken play just over the Jets blueline, and Bryan Little, Michael Frolik, and Ladd broke up the ice. Once into the attacking zone, Little threw the puck on goal looking for a rebound, and Halak kicked the puck right to a waiting Ladd who buried the opportunity.
It was a fitting game winner, as Ladd, who has struggled at times early this season, embodied the type of play that will lead the Jets to victories. His hard-nosed drive to the net was the type of goal you’d expect from the two-time Stanley Cup champion who has proven time and time again that his shot and size are his best attributes.
So, as the Jets stars go – and on Tuesday night, Andrew Ladd – so do the Jets. If Ladd can continue to play the way he did tonight, the Jets will find themselves in the win column a lot more frequently.