The Winnipeg Jets have gone from intentions to actions in the last week.
It has transformed a team on a five-game losing streak into one with a three-game winning run after Thursday’s night’s 7-2 spanking of the Florida Panthers.
Now with 44 points — the same as the eighth-seeded and idle New York Rangers — after 42 games, the Jets have at least qualified for a run at a Stanley Cup playoff spot with their final six games.
Thursday allowed them to keep pace with all the winners ahead of and around them, still just two points off the Southeast Division lead held by the Washington Capitals.
"We might have been talking about it but we’ve been doing it," Jets left-winger Evander Kane said after two goals against the Panthers. "That’s the difference from maybe those five games on the losing streak. Now we’re on a bit of a winning streak. Instead of talking, we’re just going out and doing it and I think it’s good to see."
Aaron Gagnon’s second goal in two games for the Jets started a flurry at 3:54 — by 6:31 it was 2-2 after Kane also scored for Winnipeg and T.J. Brennan and Tomas Fleischmann answered twice for Florida.
Later in the period, Bryan Little found captain Andrew Ladd streaking to the net and the two connected for a pretty goal to put the home side ahead 3-2.
"I thought it was an entertaining game," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "It had ebbs and flows that I would have liked to have been more in control of but that’s what you get."
When Florida’s George Parros took down Alexander Burmistrov at mid-period, it opened the floodgates. Little found Clitsome for a power-play goal — Winnipeg’s first since March 26 in Carolina, ending a seven-game drought — and then Dustin Byfuglien and Kane scored on the next two shots to chase Florida starter Jacob Markstrom.
The three goals in 1:53 gave the Jets 10 second-period goals in the last three games.
"I thought Laddy’s goal was really big, getting us the lead going into the second," Kane said. "I think our seconds have really been the difference in these last three games. We’ve come out and wanted to kind of bury teams early in the game, not wait around until the third period and we did a good job of that tonight."
Chris Thorburn tipped in Ron Hainsey’s point shot at 11:53 for the final margin. Florida, last in the Eastern Conference, had played six straight one-goal games (and won four of them) before Thursday.
After the buzzer
Noel said after the game Little, who had another dynamic night, was fine after being head-checked by Florida’s Erik Gudbranson late in the second.
"I think he’s been skating the best I’ve seen him here in some time," Noel said. "Certainly in successive games. I find that is really standing out more than anything. And he’s playing really intelligent."
Added Ladd: "He’s got great vision. We’ve seen that since he’s been here. He’s a good setup guy, he’s got great speed to open up space for himself and find guys and it’s pretty standard for him. He’s been pretty good the last three years since I’ve been playing with him."