On February 17 the Winnipeg Jets lost their third consecutive home game and the fans were becoming noticeably restless with the poor results being produced by the team. Only eleven days later the folks in attendance at the MTS Centre were amped up with excitement as the Jets seem to have turned their season around.
After winning four games on a five game road trip the Jets kept up the positive momentum as they escaped with a scrappy 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Stretches of the game were not pretty, but two goals -- one early and one late -- by Andrew Ladd combined with some pretty strong goaltending by Ondrej Pavelec -- it's always fun to be able to say that -- resulted in a victory that keeps the Jets in a tie for the Southeast Division lead while also putting them in a tie for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Right off the opening faceoff, New Jersey defenceman Marek Zidlicky decided that he needed to move strongly in the direction of Bryan Little in the neutral zone. As a result, Andrew Ladd was alone on the left wing and when the puck made its way to Ladd he walked in for an easy breakaway goal eight seconds into the game as Zidlicky sprawled futilely to the ice in the background.
After killing off a penalty to start the second period, the Jets may have relaxed a little too much as Andrei Loktionov zipped by Mark Stuart on the right wing before beating Pavelec with a snap shot to tie the game at one. Alexei Ponikarovsky picked up an assist on the goal in his return to Winnipeg after his brief tenure with the Jets.
With under ten minutes remaining in the third period there were offsetting penalties that resulted in four on four hockey. Dustin Byfuglien made a strong drive around the net before throwing the puck out front where Ladd slammed it home for his second goal on the night.
Shortly after the Jets go ahead goal, Adam Henrique had a breakaway opportunity to tie the game, but he missed the net to allow Winnipeg to preserve the lead.
Blake Wheeler added an empty net goal with 35 remaining to seal the victory for Winnipeg while spoiling Travis Zajac's first game in his hometown.
- Wheeler is not getting a lot of scoring chances, but there are lots of times where he has the puck and it looks like something good is about to happen and then the play fizzles. I expect him to have a bit of a point burst in the near future, particularly if he starts shooting the puck on odd-man rushes.
- The Jets' penalty kill continues its progression back to the mean. Alexander Burmistrov and Evander Kane have settled in as the team's top forward combo on the PK.
- Both teams looked very unimpressive on the power play.
- Evander Kane's goal and point streaks came to an end. But he still looked dangerous frequently. It's exciting to see him develop into an elite player right before our eyes.
- AIH favourite Andrei Loktionov continues to impress for the Devils. It's easy to look at Eric Tangradi and think that there was a better deal out there for Chevy to make.