For the first time since concluding their jaw-dropping month of December, the Winnipeg Jets put on a dominating performance against the Ottawa Senators, in the process collecting their second win of January.
Unlike their previous efforts this month, the Jets did not surrender a third period lead, instead earning two important points against a Senators team they are currently battling in the standings.
From the outset, Winnipeg executed their game plan to a T. They hemmed Ottawa in their own zone for prolonged stages of the game with a smothering brand of hockey and handed the Senators their first shutout loss of the season.
Winnipeg's success this year has hinged largely on starting games on the offensive and tonight they capitalized on their first shot of the game as only 00:49 into the opening frame, Chris Thorburn broke up a Jason Spezza pass, turned up ice and fed a beautiful saucer pass to Jim Slater who redirected the puck through the pads of Senators goalie Craig Anderson.
Winnipeg extended their lead within the first ten minutes of the second period when a Tobias Enstrom slap shot eluded traffic a maze of bodies before bouncing off of Anderson, into Ottawa's net.
Though the Jets would continue to apply dominant pressure throughout the middle frame, Anderson proved exactly why he was voted first star of the week as he calmly thwarted Winnipeg's offensive attack, giving Ottawa a chance to stage a comeback in the third period.
The Jets who no doubt learned from previous collapses to the Bruins and Devils were prepared for a third period push back and - despite a few defensive zone hiccups - forced the Senators to take shots from the peripheries of the offensive zone while directing traffic away from goaltender Chris Mason as he registered his second shutout in his past three starts, stopping all 25 shots he faced.
Winnipeg's defensive system stifled any offensive creativity the Senators hoped to impose, something which hasn't been executed with regularity since their December 27th match-up in Colorado. Tonight further displayed what this team can achieve when the Jets come together as more than just a sum of the parts; playing as a cohesive unit rather than as individuals.
Though the Panthers have played two fewer games than the Jets, Winnipeg was able to sneak within three points of their divisional foes while broadening the gap between 10th and 11th on the Sabres.
There will be little time to savor their second victory of 2012 as the club flies to New Jersey to face the Devils for a final time this season tomorrow night.
Check out our SB Nation Pals at Silver Seven Sens for further analysis on tonight's game.
First Period: 00:49 Winnipeg ES Goal, Jim Slater (8) (Chris Thorburn)
Third Period: No Scoring
Shots: Winnipeg 35, Ottawa 25
Three Stars: 1. Tobias Enstrom 2. Jim Slater 3. Craig Anderson
- Winnipeg's main obstacle of late has been the over-complication of their game. Tonight they played a simplified brand of hockey that emphasized "dump and chase" as well as congesting the neutral zone, both tactics which paid off in spades. Though their were still moments where the team over-passed, it was nice to see them get back to playing a style that has been so successful for them.
- From the gruesome stat category: Before tonight's two goal performance, Winnipeg had only registered six goals in their past five games. Though they didn't shoot the light's out, at least they are trending in the right direction.
- Winnipeg had only scored once on 47 shots against both San Jose and New Jersey. Jim Slater scored on the Jets first shot of the night against Ottawa.
- Still there are two area's of concern for the Jets. 1) Their inability to score in the third period (they currently rank dead last) and 2) The lack of offense generated from their power play as of late. In three power play opportunties, Winnipeg could only generate three shots.
- As mentioned earlier, Chris Mason has recorded his second shutout of the season, both of which have come in his past three games. His career record against Ottawa coming into tonight was 2-4-0.
- Though they took some bumps and bruises for it, the Jets blocked 23 shots, nearly as many as Ottawa registered on the night (25).
- Tobias Enstrom's goal was a fantastic exhibition of passing as Winnipeg neutralized Ottawa's forecheck in three simple passes before breaking the Senators zone and finding a wide open Enstrom at the top of the circles.
- Jason Spezza is on track to have his best season statistically since 2007-08. If Ottawa is going to continue to hang tough in the East, Spezza, Michalek, Alfredsson and Anderson will have to carry them to the playoffs.
- That said, Ottawa has plenty of budding talent, particularly College Hockey graduates. So far this season, seven former NCAA alums have dressed for the Senators (Butler, Condra, De Costa, Greening, Lee, Turris Winchester)
- Speaking of Kyle Turris, though he was held off the score-sheet tonight, he was still one of the better Senators on the ice. Turris will be given every opportunity to become a star in Ottawa and with an abundance of young defensmen at their disposal, David Rundblad became expendable on their back-end. Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen look like they could be the new Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara combination in Ottawa.