The Winnipeg Jets are still alive.
Despite taking it to the Buffalo Sabres pretty much all night, dominating both the shot-clock and the possession-meter, it came down to a dribbler from Antti Miettinen that squeaked through Jhonas Enroth late in the third period in give the Jets the all-important 2-1 win. This result, combined with the Ottawa Senators regulation loss to the Penguins, has Jets just one point back of the Capitals, Senators and Rangers. What a finish to the season.
The first period ended as it started, with both teams knotted up at zeroes. However, there were some good chances at both ends of the rink, as Evander Kane hit the crossbar on a penalty shot after it glanced off of Jonas Enroth's glove, but Tyler Ennis returned the favour by rifling a wrister off of the post to Ondrej Pavelec's left side. The Jets did control the play, however, as they outshot the Sabres 15-4 in the frame.
The second period was more productive on the scoreboard, as each team got on the board. The Jets opened the scoring on a pretty deflection, as Aaron Gagnon tipped home a great pass from Derek Meech at the 7:42 mark. And Gagnon nearly added another one a few minutes later, but Enroth made a very nice save on the one-timer. But the lead did not last that long, as the Jets "special teams" failed to kill off the first penalty it took when Thomas Vanek tipped home a wonderful pass from Tyler Ennis to tie the game at the 11:57 mark. That was all the scoring, but the Jets continued to hold the advantage in territorial play as they outshot Buffalo 14-10 in the second for a 29-14 total after 40 minutes.
The Jets had numerous other chances throughout the 3rd period but again Enroth stood his ground. So of course you knew it would be an ugly goal that would decide the game, as Miettinen's dribbler got through and gave the Jets the lead that they would not relinquish. Still, Winnipeg seemed to sit back with the lead and Buffalo had multiple good chances to tie the game in the final 5 minutes, but Ondrej Pavelec stood tall and saved the game, especially when Ron Hainsey backed into his crease and let Vanek waltz in... The Sabres outshot the Jets 11-10 in the 3rd, but Winnipeg held a large 39-25 advantage throughout the game.
- Claude Noel continues to display #Noelogic by putting James Wright on the second line over much more worthy options (ahem... Alexander Burmistrov...). James Wright has one goal on the season, has horrible possession numbers and is a bonafide 4th-liner. Coach makes interesting decisions, doesn't he?
- The line of Alex Burmistrov - Mike Santorelli - Eric Tangradi continues to play well, as their possession numbers must be getting better. Still, their lack of offensive contributions continue to be a little alarming.
- How sad is our blue-line right now? Sure, most teams would find it tough to replace a Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian in the lineup, but when you trot out a four-some of Dustin Byfuglien, Grant Clitsome, Derek Meech and Paul Postma on your power-plays, you really shouldn't be surprised when you don't produce offense.
- What does that tell you about Ron Hainsey? I'm not overly looking to harp on him here, but can he be considered a true top-4 d-man when he can't make the power-play in this lineup? Obviously he has zero goals in forever, but can he not distribute the puck? I'm not sure about Meech over him on the PP myself.
- Aaron Gagnon from Derek Meech. That was a goal combination in the NHL, and not in St. John's. If you'd have predicted this happening during training camp, you'd have made a ton of money. Sadly, I did not... :(
- Steve Ott continues to annoy people, as he took a roughing penalty to fight Andrew Ladd after the Winnipeg captain drilled Christian Ehrhoff with a clean hit. Still, I'll give him credit for caring enough to fight in a meaningless game for his team.
- Special Teams and the Winnipeg Jets just don't mix. The Jets went oh-for-3 on the PP, missed on a penalty shot and allowed a goal on their only PK of the game. Perry Pearn is lucky to have a job.
- Ondrej Pavelec had a very nice game, but it was his glove save on Thomas Vanek with about 5 minutes left that many may look back and refer to it as the "save that saved the season". And I'll give him big credit for that save, as he played it positionally perfect. But seriously... what the f*ck was Hainsey doing laying down in the paint there? Like, seriously? WTF?!?!
- Only four Jets players saw over 20 minutes of ice-time, as Noel did a tremendous job of balancing the ice-time of this short-handed squad. Dustin Byfuglien led the team with 24:03, while Ron Hainsey (22:17), Grant Clitsome (20:33) and Brian Little (20:01) also finished on the plus-20 side. Even Chris Thorburn played 6:54.
- The Jets are still alive, but likely still need to win tomorrow in Washington against the Capitals and again on Thursday at home versus the Canadiens to have any chance at all. But with this 6-0-1 run in their last seven games, they've pulled to within one point of three teams in the East. If they can FINALLY get some help from the out-of-town scoreboard, who knows?