NEW YORK — A furious comeback Tuesday night against a lottery-bound opponent allowed the New York Islanders to avoid disaster in their pursuit of the final Eastern Conference wild card spot. The Islanders will hope to remain on track in less heart-racing fashion Thursday night, when they host the Winnipeg Jets at Barclays Center.
The Islanders came back from a two-goal deficit Tuesday night, when captain John Tavares scored 34 seconds into overtime of a 3-2 win over the host Carolina Hurricanes. The Jets, whose scheduled game Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils was postponed due to the blizzard that hammered the east coast, last played Monday, when their losing streak hit four games with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators.
The win over the Hurricanes steadied the Islanders (33-25-11), who went 5-3-1 on the longest road trip in franchise history before returning home Monday and losing to Carolina, 8-4.
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On Tuesday, the Islanders trailed 2-0 with 1:05 left in the second period before Josh Ho-Sang and Jason Chimera scored in a 25-second span. Tavares’ goal allowed New York to move into a tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s huge for the standings, but it’s also huge for our psyche,” interim Islanders head coach Doug Weight told Newsday. “We got through a really, really long road trip. The circumstance hasn’t been great for our travel and everything else.”
Now the Islanders get a chance to stake a claim to the second wild card during a week-long stretch in which they won’t leave the metropolitan New York area. They host the Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets (Saturday) before visiting the New York Rangers next Wednesday.
The Islanders hold the tiebreaker over the Lightning by virtue of their 32 regulation/overtime wins. Tampa Bay has 30 regulation/overtime wins.
“We’ve got to get home now to our bed and we’ve got a couple home games,” Weight said. “So it’s exciting for us, that’s for sure.”
The Jets (30-33-7) are relegated to playing spoiler for the second straight season and the fifth time in six years since the Atlanta Thrashers franchise relocated to Winnipeg following the 2010-11 season. Winnipeg is 10 points behind the St. Louis Blues in the race for the second Western Conference wild card.
The unexpected off-day Tuesday could serve to refresh the Jets, who worked out briefly at the Devils’ practice facility on Wednesday.
“You wake up in (Tuesday) morning and you’re getting ready to refocus and get ready to play the Devils,” Jets center Adam Lowry told the team’s website. “Then find out early on that the game is going to be cancelled. You kind of have to shift your focus and regroup, use that day of rest. (Wednesday) was a good practice day to get ready for the Islanders.”
This will be the second and final game of the season between the Islanders and Jets. New York cruised to a 6-2 victory in Winnipeg on New Year’s Eve.