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Flyers down Jets in overtime

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If you could paint a picture of what it looks like to have your heart torn from your chest and be kicked in the private parts all at once, Ondrej Pavelec provided a decent portrait late Tuesday night.

The Winnipeg Jets goaltender was unavailable to speak to the media following a 5-4 overtime loss to the Philadelphia at MTS Centre, but as the press throng exited the dressing room he was spotted propped up against a wall, his arms folded across his chest and his face sporting an expression that was part anger, part anguish and mostly dominated by frustration.

And with just cause.

The 24-year-old Czech was absolutely brilliant for the Jets as he kicked out 50 of the 55 shots he faced from a Flyer squad that overcame awful goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov by scoring with 10 ticks left in regulation to tie the game and then won it with 43.6 seconds remaining on a goal by Jaromir Jagr.

"It’s obviously a pretty crappy feeling," said captain Andrew Ladd. "You’re in control of the game, you’ve got a chance to pick two big points up and you only end up with one. I guess ‘disappointment’ is the word.

"(Pavelec) was excellent. He gave us a chance to win. I feel bad for him because obviously we spoiled a great performance on his part. I’m sure he’s frustrated."

He wasn’t alone and here’s why: while the point is critical for the Jets in their fight for a playoff spot it was the loss of the second one that cost the club a chance to leapfrog past the Florida Panthers into first place in the Southeast Division and ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who lost in OT to New Jersey.

At it stands, Winnipeg is now 29-26-7, good for 65 points; the Panthers also have 65 at 27-20-11 as do the Leafs at 29-24-7.

So the night ended as it began, with the Panthers in third in the conference as the Southeast leaders, with the Leafs in 8th and the Jets, technically, in ninth because they have played more games.

The Flyers got goals from all of their big guns — Claude Giroux with his 23rd, Scottie Hartnell with his 28th, Maxime Talbot with his 17th, Simmonds with his 22nd and Jagr — who turned 40 last week — with his 16th. Scoring for the Jets were Ladd with his 18th and 19th, Dustin Byfuglien (9th) and Evander Kane (23rd).

But the offensive outburst and the work of the power-play — which was 3-for-3 — will be the silver linings preached when the sun comes up on Wednesday. In the immediate aftermath, however, the reaction from everyone wearing a Jet logo was about a point lost and the work of Pavelec.

"I like our group as much today as I liked them yesterday and the day before," said Jets’ coach Claude Noel. "We’ve got seven of eight points (on the homestand so far), lets deal with that. That’s the way I’m going to deal with it. I’ve got a real unhappy group in there. They’re really disappointed. They’re not real happy at all. But on the bright side of things, if you can find it, Pavelec was unbelievable. I mean, say what you want but you can win championships with goalies like that.

"What do you want to say after a game after that? What do you want to do? How demoralized do you want to get? What do you want to do... go home and put the knives and ropes away? There’s another day tomorrow, we’ve got another game coming up on Thursday. We’re going to have to pick our bootstraps up and play. There’s too much on the line for us. We’ve got Tampa Bay coming and we’ve got to get another two points. Let’s focus on the task. I’m not going to bury us with this game. We got a point.

"With this game you have two choices: I could pound on the players — which will not happen — or I can find a way to pick us back up and let’s go... It’s time to move forward and let’s go. I’ll take the point. We’ll learn, we’ll do the necessary teaching that needs to get done and we’ll go from there."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Game preview

Excuse Claude Noel if he doesn’t want to slap on the blinders today – his squad would be well-advised to do the same – while the outside world mulls over the various playoff possibilities for the Winnipeg Jets.

A win tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers (note the 6 p.m. puck drop) would vault the Jets all the way from a tie with Toronto for eighth spot in the Eastern Conference to third, as they would move past the idle Florida Panthers into first place in the Southeast Division. (The division leaders grab the top three seeds in the conference, regardless of their point totals).

A win would also move them to within two points of the Ottawa Senators and three clear of the Washington Capitals.

But given how fast the conference/division standings can change and how many games in hand some of their rivals have on the Jets – Florida, for example, has played 58 games while this will be game 62 for Winnipeg – Noel wants his team to fixate on what is right in front of them.

“You know, I’m not getting too involved in third (place), eighth… whatever,” said Noel after Tuesday’s game-day skate. “I’m trying to focus on the task and to me it’s Philly and if we can win we’re two points better in the standings. Other teams have so many games in hand right now it’s hard to get a real measuring stick on where we could go. I just want to continue winning and continue playing well and just focus on beating Philadelphia because that’s our opponent today. That’s it. That other stuff about where we could end up, I don’t even want to get into that, I don’t even want to discuss.

“I think we’re capable of doing some good things if we continue to play well.”

The Jets will be attempting to win their fourth consecutive game tonight, and fourth straight against the Flyers this season. Winnipeg last won four in a row from Dec. 1-9 as part of their dominant run that month that vaulted them into the playoff picture.

The offence has come alive for the Jets in the past three games in particular with 12 goals, all of them by the team’s Top 6 forwards of Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd and Kyle Wellwood, Alex Burmistrov and Evander Kane. But after Sunday’s 5-1 win over Colorado the message from the Jets’ dressing room was also about tightening up defensively and playing a more complete game.

“Things are going well offensively right now, we’re scoring goals, but you don’t score four or five goals every game, every night,” said Little. “It’s not going to last forever. We had some success at the beginning of the year winning games 2-1, 1-0 so as much as we like to score goals we just want to win no matter what the score is.

“We’ve been being playing really well and we won three in a row, but that’s nothing to get proud of right now. I feel like we still haven’t played a 60-minute game in those three games. Once we get that down we’re going to get a lot better. We’re a young team and we’re still learning. That’s one of the things we’ve got to get better at: putting together a full game. That’s what makes great teams great.”

Ondrej Pavelec is to start in goal for the Jets and the Flyers, who are just 3-5-2 in their last 10, were to counter with Ilya Bryzgalov. However, Bryzgalov took a shot off the hand at the Flyers’ morning skate at MTS Centre and left the ice. If he can’t go, Sergei Bobrovsky would get the start.

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

History

Updated on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 12:03 PM CST: adds fresh photos

1:08 PM: corrects that this is game 62 for Jets.

6:36 PM: Adds first goal

6:39 PM: Adds second goal

6:45 PM: Adds first period summary

7:05 PM: Adds third goal

7:21 PM: Adds fifth goal

7:26 PM: Adds sixth goal

7:43 PM: Adds second period summary

8:09 PM: Adds seventh goal

8:38 PM: Adds game headed to overtime

8:52 PM: Adds final score

10:13 PM: Updates with quotes, details.

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