The playoff-hopeful Winnipeg Jets will try to bounce back from a loss in an important game when they visit the Buffalo Sabres in Monday's battle at First Niagara Center.
The Jets, who are currently sitting in ninth place in the East, had won five in a row before dropping Saturday's shootout decision to the New York Islanders. The victory moved the Islanders four points ahead of Winnipeg in the conference standings.
Winnipeg enters Monday three points behind the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators for the final two playoff bids in the East. The Jets and the Rangers, who are idle on Monday after Sunday's victory over the New Jersey Devils, each have three games left in the regular season. The Senators have four games remaining and are hosting Pittsburgh on Monday.
The Jets are also still in the mix for the Southeast Division title as they are three back of the first-place Washington Capitals, who also have three games left in the regular season and are idle tonight before hosting Winnipeg on Tuesday.
The Jets trailed the visiting Islanders by a 3-1 score at one point on Saturday, but Winnipeg rallied before ultimately losing a 5-4 decision. John Tavares scored the game-winner in the third round of the shootout to lift the Islanders to their third straight victory.
After the first three shooters came up empty, Brad Boyes got the Islanders on the board with a slick backhand-forehand move, but Andrew Ladd answered at the other end with a quick wrister past the stick-side of Evgeni Nabokov. Tavares then skated in and slipped a wrister through the five-hole of Ondrej Pavelec to end the contest.
Kyle Wellwood potted a pair of goals, while Bryan Little and Zach Bogosian each scored once for Winnipeg. Pavelec recorded 29 saves in the loss.
"We got down 3-1 and I thought we battled back," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said. "We chased the game and we battled back to tie it. So for me, it's a point that we gained."
Bogosian (upper body) and forward Olli Jokinen both left Saturday's loss with injuries. While Bogosian is day-to-day and unlikely for tonight, Noel said on Sunday that Jokinen is out for the next 6-to-8 weeks with a high ankle sprain.
The Jets, who haven't made the playoffs since 2007 when the club was still based in Atlanta, are playing the first of two straight on the road Monday and are 10-10-2 as the guest this season. After its visit to Washington, Winnipeg will close its regular season in Thursday's home test against Montreal.
The Sabres, who will miss the playoffs for a second straight spring, had won three straight before getting slammed Friday by the visiting New York Rangers. Brad Richards' first career hat trick helped the Rangers record an 8-4 win and the loss officially eliminated Buffalo from postseason contention.
Cody Hodgson, Nathan Gerbe, Drew Stafford and Mark Pysyk all tallied for the Sabres, but goaltender Ryan Miller was lifted 1:13 into the second period after permitting four goals on 14 shots. Jhonas Enroth didn't fare any better, allowing four goals on 15 chances after taking over.
"We were down 3-0 and then we came out in the second and gave them the fourth right off the bat," Sabres head coach Ron Rolston remarked. "At that point we were in tough sledding."
Buffalo is playing its penultimate home game of the season tonight. The Sabres are 10-9-3 as the host in 2013 and will visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday before closing their campaign Friday at home against the Islanders.
Winnipeg has won five straight games against the Sabres overall and two in a row at First Niagara Center.