If it’s true that Santa Claus is a diehard supporter of the bleu, blanc et rouge of the Montreal Canadiens, then ol’ St. Nick just moved the Winnipeg Jets to the very top of the ‘Naughty’ list.
Yes, it’ll be lumps of coal all around for the the Jets after they welcomed the Canadiens to their house for a little pre-Christmas get together Thursday night at MTS Centre and then proceeded to kick the snot out of their lethargic guests in a 4-0 victory that will surely leave Habs’ faithful cursing their squad in both official languages this morning.
The victory not only improves the Jets to 16-13-5, but moves them into the highest spot in the Eastern Conference standings they’ve enjoyed all season — an eighth-place tie with the New Jersey Devils with 37 points.
As for the Habs — already in the midst of a full-fledged sports/political/language controversy for promoting Anglophone Randy Cunneyworth to interim head coach after the firing of Jacques Martin last weekend — they’ve now dropped five straight to fall to 13-16-7.
They’ll get little sympathy, however, from those in Jets’ colours as Winnipeg improved to 12-5-1 at home.
"We talked about that... we wanted to have a good start," began Jet winger Tanner Glass. "You know the kind of struggles they’ve been going through over there and you want to keep your foot on the gas and make it as tough a night on them as we can. Plus, we know with our crowd if we get an early one it’s going to be a long night in this building."
Long, and excruciatingly painful for a Habs’ team missing Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Andrei Markov and without P.K. Subban and Lars Eller, both scratched.
In any case, it didn’t take long for the Jets to jump all over their guests — who were pummelled 5-1 in Chicago Wednesday — with a dominant first period that saw them jump to a 2-0 lead before the game was 14 minutes old.
Blake Wheeler scored his fourth of the season with the Jets’ on the power-play, banging home an absolutely perfect pass from Dustin Byfuglien 3:18 into the game. That followed up by an even more-picturesque marker 10 minutes later when Kyle Wellwood, Nik Antropov and Tanner Glass did the tic-tac-goal thing for Glass’ fourth of the season.
"The first goal is huge, especially in your home building, because it gets the fans involved and get (the Canadiens) doubting again... it puts that doubt in their mind that it’s going to be a long, tough night," said Wheeler. "We tired them out a little bit and from there it was a little bit easier than if we had let them score the first goal on us."
And if the Habs had any life left it was snufffed out 39 seconds into the middle frame when Wheeler beat Carey Price with a wrist shot to the stick side. Tim Stapleton rounded out the scoring with 2:24 remaining as he was found all alone in front of the embattled Price by Wheeler, who picked up his third point of the night.
Ondrej Pavelec improved to 12-11-5 with a solid effort to pick up his third shutout of the season. As an added bonus, he picked up an assist on Wheeler’s second goal.
"We had a lot of good games from a lot of people," said Jets’ head coach Claude Noel.
"We just played a solid game. Our players played responsible, they played for their goaltender and having a two or three goal lead they were very conscientious of what they wanted to do there. There was a lot of energy on the bench about playing for the goalie."