NEW YORK — How The Skate Turns is a long way from network TV or any reality channel but it aptly describes the daily drama for the Winnipeg Jets in their last two games.
Friday, with an odd morning start in Philadelphia, Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler’s skate was angled just the right way for the Flyers to get off to a, well, flying start in the first minute and the Jets never sufficiently recovered in a 2-1 defeat.
Monday in the Big Apple, Wheeler’s teammate Chris Thorburn had his blade turned just so against the boards behind the New York Rangers net, and the puck went dreamily off of it and right to Jets centre Olli Jokinen, who was unchecked in front.
Winnipeg’s third victory in four road games was delivered on that angled puck and goal with less than eight minutes remaining, snapping a 2-2 deadlock and sending the visitors to a 5-2 triumph.
"That’s my style, get some pucks in deep and create some forecheck," Thorburn said, relishing the new role Monday on a line with Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi. "He (Setoguchi) ripped it around the wall and I got lucky with my skate angle the right way and Jokes was the third guy high."
There was also an important in-game turn on Monday night. Forward John Albert, called up from the St. John’s IceCaps, played his first NHL game and had a disaster start, scored on during his first shift. But he redeemed that lowlight with his first NHL goal half-way through the game.
Winnipeg, now 13-12-4, has two more games to go on this road trip, Thursday in Sunrise, Fla., against the Panthers and Saturday in Tampa against the Lightning.
"We managed the game way better," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "We played a lot stronger. At pretty much all points of the game I thought we had confidence in our group.
"We were patient with it and it ended up turning our way. Now we move down to Florida with some real joy in our world."
Jokinen scored at 12:42 of the third and again at 18:06 when left alone in front again, giving him six goals and 17 points in the season after the three-point night.
"I just hit the net both times," Jokinen said. "Nothing special I think. We played pretty good as a team. We won the second period and we won the third period. And I don’t think we did anything special. We stuck with the plan and were able to get the result."
As usual, Jokinen wasn’t too wound up, even though he scored a crucial pair against one of his former teams.
"We have to look at the big picture. if you want to be a playoff team, you don’t want to lose two games in a row," he said.
Plug and play
Thorburn’s chance on the Jokinen line came with Evander Kane unable to go because of a lower-body injury.
It turned out to be a productive move. Thorburn had his first two points of the season, assists on goals by each of his linemates.
"He’s a veteran player," Jokinen said. "He’s been in the league for a long time. He’s a good player. He keeps the game simple. He’s good in corners, an easy guy to play with.
"He was telling me before the game, to just make sure the puck goes to his corner, that he’s going to go get it. He was doing that. He was easy to play with."
Thorburn was more worried about the team’s strong response after the poor outing in Philly.
"We wanted to redeem ourselves and that’s what’s good about this league, there are a lot of games," he said. "We can get right back at it and show we are a good team."
The real Jets?
It was the kind of confident finish Jets fans have been waiting for, and now the team is 6-6-1 away from home with two more starts to go on this longest trip of the season.
"Even in parts of the second, they were spending quite a bit of time in our zone but we stayed with the game plan," Noel said. "The good thing was we felt we were in decent control of the game.
"We were fairly confident. Our bench was alive and engaged. I thought we were good."