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As goes Kane, so go the Jets

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The results match up perfectly — a coincidence maybe, but sometimes coincidences hide stories all the same.

Before Saturday’s tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers, Evander Kane hadn’t scored a goal in five games.

And the Winnipeg Jets lost all five of those matches, a free-fall that drove them out of their division-leading playoff spot and sent them back to fighting for their post-season lives.

But Saturday, in front of a revitalized hometown crowd, the Jets snapped their losing streak — and Kane came surging out of his own scoring slump.

Yeah, the 21-year-old winger was a force on the ice on Saturday. He knew he had to be.

"Going into this nine-game stretch before tonight, our top players have to be hot, and get our team going," he said as the Jets savoured the sorely-needed win. "I thought we did a good job of that tonight. Everybody contributed to the win."

The summary records that Kane spent 19 minutes and 46 seconds on the ice, took seven shots, netted a goal and one assist, and was named first star of the game.

Video will testify that he potted his 14th of the season in a grubby second-period scramble in front of the Flyers’ net, when he shot in a puck that recent Jets acquisition Mike Santorelli had worked out in front.

This came only one minute and 29 seconds after Kane set up behind the net and fed Kyle Wellwood for the Jets’ second goal, the game winner.

But there was more to Kane’s game Saturday than shows up on the scoresheet. For instance, there were a few fiery exchanges between him and the boys in orange too, particularly Flyers forward Scott Hartnell. Maybe he was getting under their skin a little bit; if so, there’s no love lost.

"There’s not a lot of guys I like on any other team," Kane said with a wry smile. "It’s just Philly. They play a certain way. They’re known for that, and you gotta be prepared going into the game and knowing what to expect from them."

Meanwhile, teams are learning more what to expect from Evander Kane — including his own.

Sure, scoring droughts happen.

After the game, Jets head coach Claude Noel said he had some theories on why Kane didn’t find the back of the net in the previous handful of games, but that he mostly chalked it up to being part of the growth of a young goal-scorer.

After all, Kane’s stats may change, but his talent... well, that stays the same.

"He can singlehandedly do some damage, because he has speed... and he plays physical, and he’s got a good shot," Noel said.

"He’s finding that he can be an effective player. And when he plays like that, it’s that will that drives not only him, but other guys around. And that’s the stuff that’s contagious."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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