Not even a little whining was heard from Winnipeg Jets’ quarters about Wednesday’s surprising bag-skate.
It turns out it wasn’t that neutral an event and it stirred something in the out-of-the-running Jets one night later, providing some fuel for their come-from-behind 2-1 shootout win against the top team in the NHL, the Boston Bruins.
"It looked like it (the bag skate) didn’t matter," smiled Jets forward Michael Frolik. "Maybe we should have that more often."
The MTS Centre sellout certainly appreciated that the Jets ramped it up instead of whimpering to the close of the regular season’s final home game and head coach Paul Maurice saw that as an equal victory.
"It’s a good team effort," Maurice raved. "They gave what they have left. They showed more in the third period — it wasn’t that they had more energy, for me it was that they had character and they found a way to push themselves past it.
"And that’s the goaltending we need for our group."
Jets rookie goalie Michael Hutchinson made his second straight start this week and was razor-sharp, making 32 saves against the quick Bruins and then turning away three more attempts in the shootout.
Bryan Little provided the shootout marker to help the Jets claim the two points.
Yes, Boston decided to sit out some top players like captain Zdeno Chara, centres Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly.
But the Jets, now 36-35-10 on their season with only tonight’s contest in Calgary remaining, had more absentees than that, including captain Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian and Mark Scheifele, to name just a few.
The Jets decided they would not go away quietly on Thursday.
Right-winger Blake Wheeler was in overdrive much of the third period and his speed keyed the tying goal by Evander Kane with just 1:57 left in regulation.
Kane beat Boston netminder Chad Johnson – who’s a spiffy 17-3-3 this season — by ramming Wheeler’s drop pass high to the glove side.
"It was frustrating, that we couldn’t get one by him," Wheeler said. "Their goalie played really well. We created some chances. There was definitely some frustration but we had a good feeling that we were just going to lay it all on the line, that there was nothing to play for except for the fact we’re trying to build something here."
Frolik said the Jets were more than conscious of playing well for their Hutchinson, who has been playing the backup’s role for going on three weeks due to injuries to both No. 1 man Ondrej Pavelec and regular backup Al Montoya.
"We didn’t score in our last game and we knew Hutch was playing an unbelievable game today and we just wanted to score for him," Frolik said. "It’s what we said in the room — to go play hard and make sure we find a way to score one. We found a way in the end and I’m very happy for him. He was outstanding.
Oh, that skate
Ah yes, more on that Wednesday skate.
Turns out, Wheeler didn’t paint an all-rosy picture of 24 hours ago, yet put a positive big-picture spin on it still.
"We’re a proud group on the ice. Put them through the paces like that and I think it’s going to do a number of things — one of them is it’s going to turn the fire on inside of you a little bit, piss you off a little bit," said the team’s leading scorer with 68 points this season. "This late in the game, I don’t think anyone likes being bag-skated. I think it kind of lit the fire in us yesterday. We had a good morning skate today after that and it really set the tone for these last two games."