NEWARK, N.J. — It must seem a bit like an alternate-universe, Bizzaro World for the Winnipeg Jets right now — struggling at home, they have found their mojo in places like Buffalo, Raleigh and now the swamps of New Jersey.
Yes, this Jets squad that was so awful on the road a year ago has transformed itself into road warriors. Sunday afternoon’s 4-2 victory over the Devils in front of 17,625 at the Prudential Center was the Jets’ third in four games on this road trip and upped their season record outside of Manitoba to 5-4-1.
Just FYI, the Jets didn’t win their fifth road game of 2011-12 until Jan. 7 — their 20th game away from home.
"It’s part of the maturity and growth," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "Last year we went through struggles on the road that really were difficult for us. But this year we understand what it takes to win on the road and how much you have to battle and pay the price."
The Jets opened the scoring for the fifth straight game on Zach Bogosian’s first of the season, but trailed 2-1 after the opening 20 minutes after Jersey got goals from Travis Zajac and Steve Bernier. Two notable developments: 1. Antti Miettinen exited the game 17 seconds into his first shift of the season after a puck deflected into his nether regions, and 2. Anthony Peluso, inserted for Chris Thorburn, energized the troops in a fight with Krys Barch.
"It was awesome," said Bogosian of Peluso. "Obviously it’s tough for him to sit there and watch so many games. But for him to get out there on his first shift and take on a tough guy in Barch really shows his character and gives us energy. I played against (Peluso) when I was younger in the OHL and I always knew he could throw ‘em pretty good."
More alternate-universe stuff: the Jets special teams actually play solid. The Jets get a power-play goal from Grant Clitsome — breaking an 0-for-21 stretch that dated back eight games — and kill off a Devils man advantage. Winnipeg was one-for-two on the power play and killed off two penalties against.
The game-winning goal came as the result of a nifty read-and-react play by Alex Burmistrov and Evander Kane. Kane blocked a shot, then took a nifty feed from Burmistrov before he split the Devils defence and avoided a poke-check by former teammate Johan Hedberg.
"It was more of a reaction," said Kane. "I just saw it at the last second. I played with him in Atlanta so I know he does that a lot... he challenges you, especially on breakaways."
Lock-down city for the Jets. Where they had struggled to protect a lead in Philly, they were much smarter a day later in Jersey. Nothing fancy while limiting New Jersey to just five shots in the third.
"We probably played our best period in the third in terms of getting pucks where we wanted them," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. "We stayed out of the box, which was key. The best penalty kill is when you’re not taking a penalty."
AFTER THE BUZZER
The Jets now have a chance to go four-for-five on this trip Tuesday in New York against the Rangers.
"Our team is resilient when it comes to facing some of this adversity," said Noel. "It just goes to show the leadership of Andrew Ladd and the other guys that are in our leadership group.
"We have a quiet confidence right now. We’re playing with the feeling that we can win the games."