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Win in Ottawa means much more than 2 points

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It was described as dull, lacklustre, boring and sloppy -- especially by those who follow the Ottawa Senators closely.

But for the Winnipeg Jets, the hardly-a-masterpiece 1-0 win in the nation's capital on Saturday might best be called something entirely different, like:

Monu-freaking-mental, for starts.

Look, in the early going this season there has been a tendency to paint every win as a turning point and every loss as a step backward. But given the circumstances the Jets were in heading into Ottawa -- without Dustin Byfuglien, still missing Zach Bogosian, with Ondrej Pavelec pushed to the end of the bench with flu-like symptoms and last Thursday's kick-to-the-nether-regions loss to Toronto -- the result was critical to the team's collective mood.

Case in point, here's how head coach Claude Noel opened his daily media session Sunday, walking into a room that featured just one TV camera and a handful of reporters:

"We win a game and nobody shows up?" Noel said with a grin. "What's going on?"

What's going on is simple -- a win always makes a dressing room lighter. And a road win that comes after a third-period collapse at home to Toronto is like feeding a T-bone steak to a starving man.

"There's a lot of good things about (Saturday's) game," Noel said. "It was a road game, a road win and a clean two points. The fact that we ended up playing a pretty decent 60-minute game... it might not have been pretty in some areas, but we saw some decent things, at least from a coaching standpoint. We got really good goaltending. There were a lot of positives to get out of there.

"The other thing is, we were able to close out that game. Obviously, being a little bit nervous from what happened before (the Toronto loss)... you get a little bit sensitive to that stuff. But I thought we managed it pretty well. It's nice to have a couple days to sit here with a win."

Noel said there was nothing in particular the Jets did differently in Ottawa than what happened here in the loss to the Leafs -- other than not taking penalties late and keeping the puck out of their net. But there was a deeper resolve, so to speak, to stop the bleeding.

Good plan, given this week's visitors to the MTS Centre are Eastern Conference heavyweights Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Boston.

"Sometimes you have to face adversity to get over the hump and the Toronto game certainly gave us enough adversity to deal with for awhile," said Noel. "I think we've sensed it's time to get this thing going in the right direction."

The Jets hope to have Dustin Byfuglien back for Tuesday's game against Philadelphia while Zach Bogosian is also getting closer to returning with each practice. Pavelec was also on the ice Sunday for the optional workout.

"(The Ottawa win) was very big for a number of reasons," said defenceman Ron Hainsey. "One, we get two days to regroup for Philly, who we know is climbing from a start they're not pleased with, and it's a team we're in a race with points-wise. It gives you two days to feel good about a good team game.

"This whole week with three games at home, it sets us up for an opportunity to really gather some points before we head out on a long road trip."

That's the black-and-white take on what happened Saturday and how it impacts the week ahead. Just as important is what a 1-0 road win with a depleted roster represents to a squad seemingly still searching to establish an identity.

"It shows we can play in those types of games," said Evander Kane. "We wanted to rebound from the Toronto game and prove to ourselves that we can play in those sort of games and hold leads." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

The Jets this week:

Tuesday, Feb. 12: vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.; TSN Jets/TSN 1290

Friday, Feb. 15: vs. Pittsburgh, 6 p.m.; CBC/TSN 1290

Sunday, Feb. 17: vs. Boston, 5 p.m.; TSN Jets/TSN 1290

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2013 C3

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