Well, that was fun. Tonight the Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes partook in a hockey game that featured so much panache it would have made the great Ric Flair "WWWOOOO!" with glee.
Both teams were hot out of the gate, trading quality chances in the first period. However, both Ondrej Pavelec and Anton Khudobin were stout, combining for twenty saves and a pristine 1.000 save percentage to end the frame.
It was just past the midway point of the second period that Michael Frolik scooped up a face-off win in the defensive zone, taking it coast-to-coast and shovelling a backhand into Khudobin's pads, creating a rebound that Andrew Ladd was able to flick past Carolina's netminder for the first goal of the game.
The Jets found themselves in penalty trouble soon after their goal as Zach Bogosian was levied with a holding call against Russian Olympian Alexander Semin. During Carolina's man-advantage Winnipeg took a too many men call giving Carolina an extended two-man advantage. Backed by competent goaltending by Pavelec, the Jets penalty killers weathered the storm and maintained their one goal lead heading into the game's final stanza.
Unfortunately for Winnipeg, the third period got off to a shaky start. Riley Nash notched his seventh of the season, capitalizing on the defensive breakdown of the Jets' fourth line and knotting the score at 1-1.
The game would remain tied until the waining moments of the third period. Although the Hurricanes were coming in waves, it was the unlikely pugilist turned goal scorer Chris Thorburn who carried the Jets to victory. Thorburn found the puck on his tape after a great cross crease pass from Jacob Trouba, snapping it into a yawning cage with sixty-three seconds of game play remaining.
Winnipeg would hold on in the final seconds, earning their ninth win under Paul Maurice in eleven games. They will have Wednesday off before visiting the Washington Capitals Thursday night at the Verizon Centre.
- Paul Maurice returned to old digs at the PNC Arena and earned yet another win as Winnipeg's bench boss. Under his watch, the Jets' just keep rolling. This reminds me of when Bruce Boudreau took over as head coach of the Washington Capitals and led them to an improbable playoff appearance. The only difference is that Washington actually outplayed their opponents consistently. Et tu, Paul?
- Face-offs were yet again terrible. Mark Scheifele won two of ten draws (20%). Bryan Little was five of nineteen (26%). This is inexcusably bad. Get well soon, Jim Slater.
- Despite what Mike Johnson tells you, Chris Thorburn was not effective on Winnipeg's second line. Sure, he, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele created a few shots, but they were out-chanced all night resulting in the worst Corsi rating of all forwards. It just so happens he scored the winning goal, so I guess I should ease up.
- Props to Ondrej Pavelec tonight. We all bemoaned Maurice's (or maybe Chevy's depending who you ask) decision to start him, but for all intents and purposes, he preformed up to Al Montoya's level despite flopping around like a fish. To me it looked like Anaheim redux only without his teammates being vastly outplayed. Still, he was effective, regardless of his unconventional ways.
- Michael Frolik continues to produce. What an absolutely dynamic play he made on the rush to create Andrew Ladd's goal. We sound like a broken record around here but he was a fantastic pick up.
- Bryan Little is beyond snakebitten right now. He led all Jets with five shots on goal tonight but could not sneak one past Anton Khudobin.
- Speaking of Khudobin, he was voted the NHL's first star for the month of January and tonight he showcased those talents. That sound you're hearing faintly on the horizon are the dulcet sobs of Cam Ward. He did more than enough to give his team a chance to win.
- Alexander Semin didn't take a single penalty. Stock up on rations people, the rapture is coming.
- Eric Staal was held in check all night, which is surprising since he usually light's up this franchise. Guess he was due for a poor performance.
- Ron Hainsey played a quiet eighteen minutes of hockey, but can you guess who was out there on Thorburn's game winner? That's right, Ron Hainsey.