Don't look now, Jets fans, but the Winnipeg Jets are inside the top-8 in the Eastern Conference.
The Jets beat the New York Rangers by a score of 3-1 tonight, and in doing so have risen into a playoff spot as they now hold the 8th-spot by themselves. They entered the night tied with the Rangers for 8th, so the win was obviously a huge one. But when combined with the regulation loss that the Washington Capitals handed the Carolina Hurricanes, the Jets are now only one point back of the Canes for 1st in the Southeast Division and the 3rd seed in the conference.
The game couldn't have started much better for the Jets, as it took less than two minutes for them to draw a Michael Del Zotto penalty and for Nik Antropov to deposit another power-play goal. It was the exact same scoring play as the opening goal from the other night against Toronto, as Dustin Byfuglien and Kyle Wellwood earned the assists on the goal at the 1:58 mark.
A big moment in the game came at the 11:17 mark, as Marian Gaborik was awarded a penalty shot when Buff hooked him in the ribs as he broke in on a breakaway. Luckily for the home team, Gaborik had the puck jump on him about 8 feet in front of the net and he was unable to get a good move away. The Jets controlled the beginning of the game, but the Rangers were better in the second half of the period but it ended with the Jets in front 1-0. Shots were 13-11 for the home squad.
The second period started like the first period ended, with the Rangers taking it to the Jets. And an awful pass by Bustin in his own zone, and some suspect d-coverage from him and his partner Grant Clitsome, led to the tying goal as Ryan Callahan tipped home a Derek Stepan shot. But the Jets regained the lead when Antti Miettinen had a shot by Buff hit him on the way through that snuck by Henrik Lundqvist to give the Jets the 2-1 lead. That is how the period ended, and the shots were all even at 22 apiece.
The third period was an entertaining one, as the teams obviously realized the importance of the 2 points, but the Jets were the better team. The best chance may have been the crossbar that Andrew Ladd on a pretty feed from Bryan Little, but he wouldn't be denied as he filled the empty net to give the Jets the huge 3-1 victory. Despite holding the lead going into the third, the Jets out-shot New York 11-7 in the period and 33-29 overall.
- Dustin Byfuglien was dangerous at both ends of the rink tonight. His offensive forays had lots of potential, and he did add two assists primary assists. But his soft passes and coverage in his own end and dangerous gambles all over the ice left a lot to be desired. The boxcars will suggest a great night at the rink, but I'd be hesitant to say he had a "great game" overall. Hurry back Toby...
- Nik Antropov continued to produce, as he added another power-play goal and extended his point-streak to four games. His trade value is obviously going up by the game, but I also wonder if Chevy has noticed and might keep him at a more reasonable rate...
- Good for Antti Miettinen. He may have only had the puck hit him on the way through, but at least he was in a strong position to earn a goal. Not sure I like him in our top-6, though...
- Kyle Wellwood added another point on the power-play. What a dude. #TeamWelly
- The "Tort-er-ell-ah" chant wasn't my favourite, but I guess it was pretty funny. I'd love to hear what Torts has to say about it after the game.
- Ondrej Pavelec was the first start of the night, and deservedly so. He was very solid again, as he saved 28 of 29 for a save percentage of 0.966 and helped backstop another win. If he can keep providing us with this type of goaltending, I'll gladly eat my words about his lack of "elite-ness".
- I love the unselfish play that Blake Wheeler made on the empty-net goal. He could have fired away at the yawning cage as he was across center ice, but he made the safe and smart play over to Ladd who sealed the deal. Ladd's Little Wheeler was great again tonight.
- Patrice Cormier played all of 3:26 on the evening, while Chris Thorburn saw 3:47. Eric Tangradi beat them both with 5:18. The Jets are a 3-line team right now, and that could be worrisome as this busy schedule won't let up.
- Ron Hainsey led the Jets in ice-time with 23:42 of ice-time, followed closely by Grant Clitsome at 23:09. That is... um... interesting... Evander Kane was next at 22:23, while Buff (22:22) and Zach Bogosian (22:03) were the others to play for more than 22 minutes on the night.
- The Jets have now evened their home record at 6-6-0 on the year, and are now 14-11-2 for 30 points in 27 games. They head to Ontario for the weekend for two more huge games against the Maple Leafs and Senators before returning home for four. They are right in this!