WINNIPEG — It’s the kind of mini-streak that will raise eyebrows, but hardly send shock waves through the National Hockey League neighbourhood.
Still, say this about the Winnipeg Jets’ third straight victory Saturday afternoon at MTS Centre — an occasionally dominant, sometimes sloppy 6-4 decision over the Philadelphia Flyers: The most-powerful after-effect of this little run might be felt within the team’s own walls.
It’s about confidence. And this squad which looked so lost after losses to Florida and Columbus just over a week ago now has some jump in its step after victories over heavyweights Tampa, Washington and Philadelphia that has made their overall season record of 8-9-3 a little less ugly on the eyes.
"Three wins in the last three games... it’s been fun in our building in front of our fans and show that we can beat some of the best teams in the NHL," said goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who made his 12th consecutive start in the Jets’ net and kicked out 27 of the 31 shots he faced.
"We had great teams to play against and I thought we did a very good job this week," added Dustin Byfuglien, named the game’s first star after a three-point effort. "Winning is everything. It shows we can play with any team. All three teams were top notch. It’s chemistry, learning how everyone is going. We got Fehrsy (Eric Fehr) back tonight... We’re getting in the groove of things and that’s something we need.
"We’re just building off hard work and simple play."
Using the home crowd as energy — again — the Jets built a 3-0 lead in the first period on two goals by Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, two of the three on the power-play, and led 5-1 midway through the game. But penalty trouble — again — allowed the Flyers to get back up off the canvas and deliver some punches of their own, cutting the Jet lead to 5-4 before Nik Antropov’s empty netter with 1:14 remaining ended the nail-biting and sealed the deal.
Winnipeg also got a short-handed goal from Jim Slater and a power-play marker from Byfuglien while the Flyers were led by Scott Hartnell and Matt Read with two goals each. Hartnell added an assist for a three-point afternoon.
"We’re playing simple and we’re out-working teams," said Little, who now has four goals in the last six games. "These weren’t easy teams that we were playing. They were tough teams, teams that could give us some real trouble. This is just going to give us more confidence."
The Jets head out on a three-game jaunt to Washington, Carolina and Boston this week before returning home for a run of 13 of 15 at MTS Centre that could very well define how their 2011-12 season is remembered. But right now it’s about baby steps for a squad still transforming and the footprints left this week were pretty significant.
"I think our group understands better how to win, how to play to win and managing the game better," said Jets’ head coach Claude Noel. "We’ve still got some areas (to work on), but this was pretty good.
"We’re playing as a group. It’s a team that is enjoying winning. We were frustrated at the beginning because I think we thought we could be a little bit better than what we were. We’re watching a team think this is how we can play. It’s a confidence thing.
"We’re managing, we’re listening and we’re paying attention. I think it’s just a group coming together."