Just when it seemed like the hockey gods really had it in for the Winnipeg Jets — and we’re talking storm clouds gathering for a nasty window-rattling shaker — the skies cleared and a teeny-tiny bit of sun shone down on the local shinny side.
Yes, in a game in which the Jets fell behind 3-1 and were shaken by the scene of promising young defenceman Jacob Trouba taken from the ice on a stretcher, they somehow found another gear for a late rally and, ultimately, a thrilling 4-3 shootout victory over Stanley Cup contender St. Louis Blues.
As a result, the emotion at the MTS Centre was all over the charts, spiking and dipping with some dramatic highs and lows. The win stops an ugly run that had seen the Jets lose four of their last five after opening the season 2-0 and improves their record to 4-4.
It also started an important run of six of seven games against Central Division opponents with a bang.
"It was a good win against a good team," said Jets centre Bryan Little. "Hopefully that gives us some confidence, and that’s been lacking lately, that confidence in our game. We’ve got to believe we can beat teams like this on a nightly basis. This is a great game for us to come back and win.
"There’s some things that didn’t exactly go our way — a couple of mistakes and the puck was in our net. But, overall, I thought we showed a lot of character coming back like that. It shows our commitment to winning."
THE TROUBA ACCIDENT
Trouba, who has been such a shining light to start the season, was taken from the ice on a stretcher early in the second period after crashing into the end boards while trying to hit Blues’ forward Jordan Leopold behind the St. Louis net. The building was eerily quiet for several minutes while the 19-year-old defenceman was placed onto a spinal board and then erupted when he gave the thumbs up as he was taken from the ice.
The Jets said Trouba was taken to the hospital for X-rays and was alert, communicating and moving all his limbs.
"Something like this, it seems like you see it almost every day," said Jets’ goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. "It was no fun at all. It was tough to focus but we handled it pretty well. We knew pretty much right away that it wasn’t going to be something serious and he was going to be fine. That’s great news."
"Trouba is still getting evaluated but he’s good," said head coach Claude Noel. "He’s just getting tested but I think everything’s fine."
The Jets finished the game with just four defenceman — Zach Bogosian, Grant Clitsome, Toby Enstrom and the game’s first star, Dustin Byfuglien — as Mark Stuart also exited with an undisclosed injury.
BETTER START? WELL...
The Jets have been blathering on ad nauseum all week about the importance of posting a solid opening period. And while there were stretches in the first 20 minutes where the home side had some oomph, the first period stats were revealing: Not only were they down 2-1 after two horrible miscues by Clitsome and Trouba that led to goals by David Backes and Alex Steen, they were guilty of six turnovers to the Blues’ one, were losing in the faceoff circle and had been outshot 11-9.
Claude Noel rattled some cages, sending Devin Setoguchi, Eric Tangradi and Paul Postma to the press box to give Clitsome, Anthony Peluso and Patrice Cormier a look ,and then benched Evander Kane for about 10 minutes in the second after he had taken three minor penalties.
THE LATE DRAMATICS, PART 1
The Jets were down 3-1 with less than seven minutes left when Kane pulled the club to within one with his fourth goal of the season. And with just 1:54 left Enstrom tied it with a blast for his first marker of the year.
THE LATE DRAMATICS, PART II
The shootout included seven rounds and featured 14 shooters, with Andrew Ladd, Little and Olli Jokinen scoring for the Jets while Pavelec stopped the last five shooters he faced.
"It feels good to win a game like that," said Bogosian. "We battled hard. They’re a good team that plays a rally solid team game and I thought we matched their intensity well and we were a lot more physical than in previous games."
—with files from Paul Wiecek and Tim Campbell