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Jets down Flyers 2-1 in shootout for huge victory

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PHILADELPHIA, Pa — This isn’t an easy town for anybody in enemy colours, be they Giants or Cardinals, Celtics or Penguins, Apollo Creed or Santa Claus.

And so when a visitor can escape with a victory — as the Winnipeg Jets did Tuesday night courtesy a 2-1 shootout over the Philadelphia Flyers — then it’s cause for a little celebration, short-lived as it may be.

"It wasn’t easy for us after the (all-star) break and especially here in Philly," began Jet goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. "We battled hard. We had a couple scoring chances but, again, we couldn’t score. Finally we found a way to win.

"That’s a huge two points for us."

True that. On a night in which two of the teams Winnipeg had in its crosshairs — Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals — both picked up points in shootout/overtime losses, the Jets were able to pick up two with their third victory over the Flyers this season.

The Jets, now 23-22-6, have 52 points — three back of the idle Florida Panthers and now four behind the Leafs and Caps.

Most importantly, the result came with the squad depleted and missing four regulars in Dustin Byfuglien, Alex Burmistrov, Evander Kane and Tim Stapleton and in the midst of a horrible January nosedive that had dropped them down the Eastern Conference standings.

Given all that, excuse them if the music didn’t sound a little funkier and the beer taste a little sweeter after this one.

"It’s a great two points. We checked, we played hard, we did the necessary things and we’re glad we found a way to win the game," said head coach Claude Noel.

"I thought we played just a good team-system game. We were smart with the puck, we waited, we were patient and we played the game with the attitude that this might not be a high-scoring game and that was really the key.

"It was clear to me, judging from behind the bench, that we really wanted to win the game. You could see the enthusiasm on the bench and we were really involved in the game."

Some trends were working against the Jets early in the game when Brayden Schenn opened the scoring for the Flyers.

-The Jets were just 6-15-4 when the opponent scored first; that total now stands at 7-15-4;

-The Jets were 1-12-1 when trailing after the first; change that to 2-12-1.

-The Jets were 1-3 in the shootout this year; that should now read 2-3.

-And, the most alarming stat of all, the Jets were an atrocious 7-14-4 on the road this year; now 8-14-4.

And so when Andrew Ladd hit the side of the net on a super feed from Blake Wheeler with 57 seconds left and Bryan Little clanged one off the post in overtime, there were more than a few Jets’ eyes staring at the sky asking, ‘Why us?’

Then came the shootout dramatics in which Pavelec stopped Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr before Bryan Little — following misses by Kyle Wellwood and Blake Wheeler — beat Flyer goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov for the winner.

"I saw when Wellwood went down (Bryzgalov) kind of left his five hole open and so I decided to give him a little fake and it might open up again. And it worked," said Little with a grin. "It’s big. It’s good for our confidence to start it off this way. Consistency is going to be the biggest thing for us for the rest of the season and this is a good way to start off."

"It wasn’t easy for me." added Pavelec when asked about post all-star game rust. "I didn’t feel well tonight, but the guys did a good job. It was the same for everybody. It’s no excuse at all. I need a good sleep tonight. Hopefully, tomorrow’s practice is going to be better and then it will be better in Tampa."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

 

Game preview

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – It’s not designated on the National Hockey League calendar, the way the Christmas and all-star breaks, the trade deadline or even opening night are clearly marked.

But you can feel it now in dressing rooms all over the league and, especially, with the Winnipeg Jets.

It’s crunch time.

The Jets begin their post-all-star game push to a playoff spot against the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (6 p.m. CT, TSN Jets/TSN Sports Radio) and the sense of urgency is palpable.

“This is going to be an urgent game, a heated game. People are going to want to get these two points,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel after his club’s game-day skate. “It’s going to be interesting to see where we’re at here, mentally, physically and how we go. I think some guys came out of the break thinking, ‘I gotta get going.’ Clearly you can reset your sights and that’s what we need to see.”

The Jets will be without Dustin Byfuglien, Alex Burmistrov, Evander Kane and Tim Stapleton against the Flyers. That said, both Byfuglien and Burmistrov had dumped the orange no-contact jerseys at Tuesday’s skate and are expected to return to the lineup Thursday in Tampa.

Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal as the Jets, 10th in the Eastern Conference, look to close the gap on the four teams immediately ahead of them in the standings -- Winnipeg, 22-22-6, has 50 points, five back of Toronto, New Jersey, Florida and Washington.

“We’re going to be looking for him to continue and I’ve got to be more reactionary here because we need the points,” said Noel of Pavelec. “We’ve got to get guys going and he has been going. So if we hit bumps here we’ve got to be ready to go. I’d like to go with him, but if it’s not going I’m not going to try and fit the round peg in a square hole. Let’s get this thing on track here. We’ve got to win some games. That’s the most important thing as this time.”

Winning will mean a push in the goal department, too. The Jets have struggled of late in that regard, managing just 20 in the 12 games played this month and, not surprisingly, the club is 3-8-1 over that stretch.

“We just need to shoot more,” said Bryan Little. “In the last few games our total shots haven’t been up there. And you can’t score if you don’t shoot and for us it’s getting pucks back on net and getting as many shots as we can with traffic. It’s one of those things, when things are going well the confidence is flowing. When we’re not scoring it’s like everyone is scoring their sticks too tight. When we’re scoring the most we’re getting it from all four lines, it wasn’t just our first and second lines, the third and fourth-line guys were chipping in once in awhile, too.”

The game against the Flyers is the continuation of a road-trip that began before the all-star festivities and, after tonight, will have the Jets playing three games in four nights in Tampa, Sunrise, Fla. against the Panthers and Sunday in Montreal.

“These are going to be huge games, of course,” said Pavelec. “Everybody knows this is going to be an important stretch. We’re going to be on the road for six games (six of their next seven) and it’s huge. We’re playing hard, we just need to score goals at the right time. We’ve lost so many close games where we couldn’t score goals and at the end of the season that could be the reason. We’re trying, it’s just sometimes you don’t score. We’ve got to find a way, especially on the road.”

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

History

Updated on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 6:20 PM CST: Updates game preview.

6:50 PM: Adds result after opening frame

7:12 PM: Adds Jets' first goal

7:44 PM: Adds result after second period of play

8:33 PM: Adds result after 3 periods

8:40 PM: Updates with scoreless third period

8:46 PM: Jets win in shootout

10:26 PM: Adds quotes, colour

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