CHICAGO - It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of this win for the Winnipeg Jets. Huge. Massive. Colossal. Gargantuan. Bigger than my pre-game meal. You get the picture.
Playing their fourth game in six days, second in two nights and third against a team in the league’s top five, the deck was stacked against the Jets in so many ways. And while they spent a good portion of the night waltzing while the Chicago Blackhawks were fox-trotting, in the end it was the once-lowly Jets slipped out of town with the two points in tow.
The Jets finished a week in which they faced the NHL leading Anaheim Ducks, second place Hawks and fifth place San Jose Sharks, with a 3-1 win over Chicago to collect their third victory in six days.
But that win right there was just a great sign of character... I really can’t say enough about that win.
Winnipeg is now 6-1 under new coach Paul Maurice and he was not hiding his pleasure following the win.
"The week was huge and especially (Sunday) night. Listen, we got dominated in the first period. That’s a tough grind to go to the West Coast and play three of the league’s top five teams and we showed it in the first period," said Maurice. "But that win right there was just a great sign of character. We held them in the second and then I’ve got a tired group at that point and they just played as hard and fast and loose which we didn’t in the first. Down one, why wouldn’t we? I really can’t say enough about that win."
The Hawks outshot the Jets 18-2 in the first period and the home side held a 27-6 edge after two periods, but only had a one goal lead after Brandon Bollig beat Al Montoya early in the first period.
Montoya, who got his first win ever in front of his family and friends in his hometown of Chicago was brilliant and unbeatable the rest of the way.
"Yeah, that win is all him (Montoya). He gave us a chance heading into the third," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd, who scored the winner sandwiched between a pair of Blake Wheeler goals. "We talked about it in this room. We were only down one. We still had a chance to win the game. We wanted to reward him for playing out of his mind in the first two periods."
Maurice laughed when asked about the chatter in his dressing room prior to the third period.
"It was all me. No, all I want in that situation, I understand what happened in the first period but that can’t dictate how we play in the third," said Maurice. "Down one on the road going into the third period against the second best team in the NHL. Yeah, we got crushed in the first period but the second period was an even period and we were much better in the third."
Wheeler got the Jets on the board as the middle of the third period drew close and then Ladd buried the winner with just over seven minutes left in the game.
The Blackhawks looked sluggish from the second half of the middle period on while the Jets picked up steam.
"We came in after the second period and we felt we had caught up to them in every way but on the scoreboard," said Jets winger Michael Frolik. "We told each other, 'let’s go out and steal this game,' and that's exactly what we did."
"It was a lot of work," said Montoya, who faced 35 shots on the night. "I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. They hadn’t played in a couple of days and we’ve had a long road trip. I knew they were going to come. I knew I was going to have to make a couple of saves and I was going to have to get a couple of saves. But hats off to these guys. Even though that first period was a barrage, they battled and stuck with it and believed in me."
Olympic break: The Jets have six games left before the break to try and make up some ground in the wild-card race. "That’s our goal. To make the playoffs. But we’re not thinking about that. We’re thinking about each period and each game and nothing more," said defenceman Zach Bogosian.
Playoff race: Last night’s win lifted the Jets to 55 points and left them seven back of a wild card spot. The Minnesota Wild have 62 points and the Vancouver Canucks have 63 to hold the two wild card spots right now.
Fourth-line fellas: The combination the Jets used as a fourth line last night, Eric O’Dell, Anthony Peluso and Chris Thorburn have combined for three goals and 13 points this season. The Hawks rolled Marcus Kruger, Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith as their fourth line and they’ve collected 17 goals and 49 points this season.