BUFFALO — They were the sounds that have been absent from the Winnipeg Jets dressing room of late: laughter, cheering and speaker-rattling tunes with the volume set at 11.
Yes — for one night at least — there is joy back in Jetland after a workmanlike 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night that stopped the bleeding of a three-game Winnipeg losing streak.
For a crew that came into the game tighter than the bolts on a new bridge, it was a welcome change.
"The first thing that it does, when you win, is it brings joy back into your life, which we all welcome because it’s been miserable enough for awhile," said head coach Claude Noel. "(Losing) wears on you. You feel it and it hurts the morale. You don’t feel good about things, you don’t feel good about yourself, you don’t feel good about your team... winning cures a lot of things."
The Jets buzz the Sabres early and it’s prompted by the line of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler. Little scores one minute in and Wheeler — a man who pushed his teammates to work to rid their heads of all the negativity on Monday — was absolutely flying.
"It’s what I was talking about yesterday and today: no thinking, just enjoying the game," Wheeler said. "That’s the mindset from here on out. It may be hard to understand, but it makes a huge difference when you’re out there reacting and letting the game come to you and just letting things happen."
The Jets get a goal from Ladd after a horrible Sabres turnover, but then the captain makes a lousy pass to a pinching Dustin Byfuglien that leads to a completely against-the-flow goal by Jason Pominville. But the Sabres’ chances were limited and the Jets, who finished with 19 blocked shots at the end of the night, would have 12 different players throw their bodies in harm’s way.
"I thought we played well, especially in the second," beamed Pavelec afterward. "We had great grit."
Some scary moments for the Jets in the first five minutes. But they settled their game, got some superb goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and then — fingers undoubtedly being gnawed to the bone — killed an Evander Kane penalty with four minutes left. Get this: The Jets’ maligned penalty-kill unit was a perfect three for three.
"It’s a good feeling, especially when you are reeling a little bit," said Ladd. "We had lost three games in a row. To have that confidence and go out there and hold it down for the last minute or two minutes when they’re pressing is only good for us going forward playing tight games."
After the buzzer
The Jets left for Raleigh, N.C., immediately after the game and have today off. What’s the old saying about beer tasting better after a win?
"It’s been a pretty frustrating time for us," said Noel. "We got some good games from a lot of people and we found a way to win the game and we found a way to win a game the right way. For us, that was the important thing."