The Winnipeg Jets' stretch of home games against non-playoff bound opponents continued on Thursday night at the MTS Centre, as the Carolina Hurricanes blew through town. The fans were jacked up from the opening puck drop of the game, as the team's hopes for a playoff spot keep rising with each win.
The Jets played a very Jets-like game. There were quite a few positive moments, but they were balanced out by some ugly misplays and stumbles. Winnipeg showed an inability to put a weak opponent away as they allowed Carolina to score two goals late in the third period to send the game to overtime. But Winnipeg flashed their four-on-four skills, as they improved their OT record to 6-2.
The first goal of the game came on a rush that looked pretty innocent, as Bryan Little gently pushed the puck forward into the Canes offensive zone and Justin Faulk looked to body Little out of the play. Unbeknownst to the Carolina defenders, Zach Bogosian jumped into the rush on the right wing and he was able win a race to the puck and chip it by Justin Peters to give Winnipeg the lead.
Some scrappy end-to-end play resulted in Carolina cutting the lead to one. Justin Faulk made a pass to Tuomo Ruutu who was cutting through the middle of the slot. Ruutu then made a slick move and beat Ondrej Pavelec with a snap shot. Pavelec had made a string of outstanding saves leading up to the goal.
Winnipeg rebuilt a two goal lead midway through the third period. Bryan Little sprung Blake Wheeler for a partial breakaway with a soft pass, and Wheeler fended off Jamie McBain before slipping a shot by Peters. At the time it looked like Winnipeg would smoothly sail to victory.
But Carolina narrowed the gap to one when a Marc-Andre Bergeron slapshot from the point was deflected by Ruutu for his second goal of the night. Pavelec argued that he was interfered with on the play, but any potential contact occurred well after the puck crossed the goal line.
The air was let out of the MTS Centre when Alexander Semin tied the game up with only 1:12 remaining when he popped in a rebound.
Winnipeg picked up the much needed second point by taking advantage of the Hurricanes extremely aggressive overtime play. Dustin Byfuglien cleared the puck into the neutral zone and Andrew Ladd patiently skated into the Canes zone before wristing a shot that Peters stopped. Byfuglien was there to pounce on the rebound and send the fans home happy with his eighth goal of the season.
- Pavelec made a tremendous pad save on Justin Faulk during a second period Hurricanes power play before making the save of the year when he robbed Faulk again with a swinging stick save.
- Byfuglien showed why fans have a love/hate relationship with him in this game. He got a nice breakaway opportunity and made a huge hit on Patrick Dwyer. But he also got caught in the offensive zone a couple of times, including late in the game when he needlessly pinched allowing the Canes to start a rush that eventually ended in Semin's game tying goal. To make matters worse he was idly standing next to Semin when he got the shot off. Thankfully, he totally redeemed himself with the OT winner.
- James Wright took a late third period shift with Evander Kane and Olli Jokinen. Why would you willingly place an anchor around Kane's neck?
- Ron Hainsey collapsed to the ice while skating by himself late in the third period resulting in a decent chance for Semin. Carolina did not score, but if they had the Hainsey hate would have erupted on twitter (instead the result was only a minor gurgling of hate).
- The defence pairings were shuffled during the game with Bogosian playing with Grant Clitsome and Byfuglien playing with Hainsey. Not sure if it makes much difference in the overall scheme of things, but it happened.
- Kyle Wellwood made a nifty pass from behind the net to Evander Kane that resulted in a good scoring opportunity in the first period. But hey, lets work Wright into this mix.
- Grant Clitsome led the Jets in ice time (25:58). Claude Noel's faith in him appears to be increasing significantly.
- Andrew Ladd notched career points 300 and 301 when he assisted on goals by Bogosian and Wheeler. Additionally, Ladd's Little Wheeler just keeps on rolling as they have looked really good late in the season.
- Before the game ended, Carolina was officially eliminated from playoff contention with the New York Rangers win over Florida. But kudos to the Hurricanes for playing hard despite their really awful results to close the season.
- Ottawa's win over Washington means that a Southeast Division banner is still in play for the Jets.