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In a game that they absolutely needed to win, the Winnipeg Jets found a way to thwart off the Boston Bruins by a score of 2-1, dolling the Bruins only their second loss in the past seventeen games.
Winnipeg showed just the right amount of petulance and truculence (thanks Burkie!) required in defeating the NHL’s hottest team and reigning Stanley Cup Champions.
The first period started innocuously enough as both teams played territorial hockey in the early going. It was 18:21 into the game when Andrew Ladd found a seam up the left hand side of the ice and snapped a wicked snap shot over the shoulder of Finnish netminder Tuukka Rask, giving the Jets a 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
Boston stuck to their game and were rewarded early in the second as they forced the Jets into two penalty kill situations which they were unable to convert. Local rock-star Ondrej Pavelec stood tall in his crease, making ten (!) saves in the period while the Jets were at a disadvantage.
The Jets would also create power play chances of their own in the second, but could not sustain much in terms of offensive pressure to crack the Bruins penalty kill. The teams would go scoreless in the frame as the Jets clung to their one goal lead heading to the third.
The final act of this the second chapter of Jets v. Bruins was the most physical and verbose to date, making for an exhilarating finish.
Tanner Glass taking a run at Brad Marchand in neutral ice. David Krejci smashing Mark Stuarts face into the glass. It was in the third period where both teams finally realized what was at stake tonight.
For Boston, tonight was their opportunity to seize first place in the Eastern Conference, a chance to surpass the Pittsburgh Penguins despite playing two less games.
And for Winnipeg, coupling the recent losses of Tampa Bay, Washington and Montreal meant that Winnipeg could not only make further ground on a divisional opponents, but hurdle themselves into 9th place in the Conference; only one point out of 8th and very much alive in early December playoff conversation.
Then Boston tied the game.
Winnipeg could have called it a night and turtled, going into a defensive shell and praying that the Bruins onslaught would hold off just long enough for them to collect a single point in forcing overtime.
But in a display that coupled one part luck with one part skill, Bryan Little won a faceoff just outside the Jets zone, took advantage of the slow foot-speed of Bruins defenseman Joe Corvo, streaking in on a partial breakaway and burying a five-hole shot on Rask to re-establish the Jets lead only a minute after the game had been tied.
Boston threw everything they had at Winnipeg in the waning moments but Pavelec – ever the hero – again rose to the challenge, stopping each oncoming Bruins shot with a calm demeanour.
As the clock hit 0.00, Winnipeg was now 12-11-4 and for the first time since March 2011, claimed a record of more wins than regulation losses.
However, before we wax-poetic – heaping mounds of flowery prose upon Manitoba’s team – keep these small tidbits in mind:
Firstly, this is only the second time Boston has faced back-to-back games this season. Most NHL teams don’t fare well in this setting, especially when you arrive in Winnipeg at 2:30AM the night before. The last time these teams met, Boston was finishing up a home back-to-back setting and beat up the Jets 4-2.
Thirdly, Winnipeg still gave up 61 shots (40 registered) to a team that was going through the motions early on, and went for stretches where they let Boston dictate the play. Without another huge performance from Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg probably loses this one and much like the Ottawa game, fans would recant tales of "the one that got away".
Yes, it was a huge win for Winnipeg. When the chips were down, they grabbed their sacks and punched the bully in the face, taking an important two points in the standings.
But this wasn’t David vs. Goliath. USA vs. The Soviets. Or hell, even Jaroslav Halak and the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens taking down the Washington Capitals in the 2010 NHL playoffs (urgh, *shudders and grabs the whiskey bottle*).
This was a team with two days of rest hosting a team from a different time-zone playing the tail end of a back-to-back. I think the rest speaks for itself.
The Jets will now have another two day break before hosting the Carolina Hurricanes Friday at the MTS Centre. Carolina is still win-less under new Head Coach Kirk Muller, while Winnipeg will look to win seven of their last eight home games before heading to play in Detroit on Saturday.
1st Period: 18:21 Winnipeg ES Goal, Andrew Ladd (9) (Johnny Oduya, Ondrej Pavelec)
2nd Period: No Scoring
3rd Period: 03:15 Boston ES Goal, Shawn Thornton (2) (Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell); 04:50 Winnipeg ES Goal, Bryan Little (8) (unassisted)
Shots: Winnipeg 35, Boston 40
3 Stars: 1. Ondrej Pavelec 2. Bryan Little 3. Tuukka Rask
Ed. Note: Due to the length of tonight's recap, there will be no 10 thoughts. Sorry to all who enjoy this feature, I will bring it back with the next edition of The Afterburners.