WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets made three second-period stand up for their third straight win, a 3-2 decision over the Toronto Maple Leafs before a jubilant MTS Centre crowd of 15,004 tonight.
The Jets made huge progress with their favourable schedule, a run of 13 of 15 games at home in which they went 10-4-1.
Now up to 43 points with a record of 19-14-5, Winnipeg is tied for sixth in the NHL’s Eastern Conference with the New Jersey Devils.
"I think we made hay," said Jets coach Claude Noel after ringing in the New Year with the team’s 14th home win of the season.
Zach Bogosian and Blake Wheeler scored power-play goals in the second, and Andrew Ladd added another marker just four seconds after a Toronto penalty expired.
The Jets were two for six on the night, while the Leafs, with goals from Clarke McArthur and Phil Kessel, went one for three.
Toronto lost for the third straight time and since a hot start, has now fallen under the Eastern Conference playoff line, stuck on 41 points.
"I thought we got a little unnerved in the third when they started to come," Noel said about his team defending that one-goal lead it took to the final period. "That team has a lot of speed. We backed off and they were really coming hard."
But after a tentative start, the Jets charged up the home crowd once again with their second period.
"I liked the emotion of our game," Noel said. "When we got the emotion in the game early in the second, we got on the power play and yes we scored, but the building came to life and we came to life."
Defending that lead, the Jets moved to 16-0-1 when ahead after two periods.
"I think we’re just a little smarter, and I think we could still be smarter," defenceman Ron Hainsey said, asked how his team has grown since the long home stretch began. "But we’re not getting 3-0 leads and trying to make it 8-0 like we were earlier in the year.
"Against Colorado the other day, we got a lead and then stayed in the middle and played smart and didn’t really give them a whole lot.
"And we’re taking a lot less penalties, spending less time on the penalty kill. Those two things were really bothering us.
"A lot of those games earlier we were getting leads, then penalty, penalty and it’s tied, taking chances we didn’t need to take."
The Jets victory tonight marked the continuation of the New Year’s Eve tradition of a pro game in Winnipeg, which dates continuously back to 1986.
The exceptions to the streak were 1994 when the NHL was in lockout and in 1999 when the World Junior tournament was here, forcing the Manitoba Moose onto the road. The Moose game that season was substituted with a Canada-U.S.A World Junior matchup.