RALEIGH, N.C. — The Winnipeg Jets finally did themselves a favour in a meaningful game, scoring a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
The Jets used the win to increase their lead over Carolina in the Southeast Division to six points. Carolina has three games in hand on the Jets and the two teams meet again Saturday in Winnipeg.
The Jets had a chance to push themselves up in the standings and they did exactly that, playing a confident but relaxed game.
"This was huge. Those two Washington games (back-to-back losses to the Capitals last week) were well-documented, but the fact of the matter is, even in a shortened season, you are going to have bumps in the road. It’s less about the bumps in the road and more about how you respond," said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. "Starting with our last game, we started to get back to what we need to do to be successful and (Tuesday) we played a really good game."
The Jets fell behind 1-0 but didn’t stray from their game plan and rode a major offensive outburst from Evander Kane and solid goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec for the win.
Kane was in on all four Jets goals, with three assists and a goal. All this after enduring a 14-game span where he picked up just three points.
"It’s tough when you’re not contributing at the rate you’d like to, but you try to find other ways to help your team win and a play a role," Kane said. "But it’s nice to win and it’s nice to contribute offensively and take some pressure off the big line and get some production from other guys."
Carolina was inactive since last Thursday and had a little more jump than the Jets in the early going. They cashed in with the game’s first goal as Jiri Tlusty ended a six-game goal-scoring slump with his 14th of the season.
The Hurricanes had good pressure on a power play and scored just after Winnipeg’s Olli Jokinen stepped back on the ice. Tlusty got free in the slot and shot the puck right through Pavelec.
The Jets bounced back, however, on some nice work by Kane, who worked in his own zone to gain the puck, then swooped down the left side while Jokinen fought to catch up to the play. By the time Jokinen was free, Kane was almost too deep but managed to get the puck to Jokinen, who kicked the awkward pass from his skates to his stick before roofing a shot over Canes goalie Justin Peters to even the score at 1-1.
The Jets spent huge chunks of time scrambling in their own zone but moved ahead 2-1 on a perfect point shot from Toby Enstrom. The goal was Enstrom’s fourth of the season and second since missing 19 games due to injury. Winnipeg’s power play struggled mightily during Enstrom’s absence, but he has two goals since his return.
The Jets then jumped ahead 3-1 as Nik Antropov popped in his fourth of the season to give his club some room.
Kane got a strange goal, but they all count. Carolina’s Jamie McBain put the puck in his own net and Kane was the last member of the Jets to touch it, giving him his 13th of the season.
After the buzzer
MORNING BLUES: Jets coach Claude Noel said he wasn’t sure what to expect from his team after an ugly morning skate.
"We had an awful pre-game skate," said Noel. "The wildest one I’ve ever seen. One thing you learn as a coach is to never judge your game-night activity with your pre-game skate. We proved that to be the case because if you had been watching our skate, you would have thought, ‘Holy Jesus, these guys are awful,’ but I thought we played a good, strong game."