Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 04/9/2013 12:09 PM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 04/9/2013 11:15 PM | Updates
It’s not a complicated formula, although the Winnipeg Jets have struggled with deciphering and understanding it at various times this season.
It goes something like this: Winning = good thing.
The Jets, who looked dazed and confused at times during a five-game losing streak that had them limping home last week, reeled off their second-consecutive win in workmanlike fashion Tuesday night at the MTS Centre by polishing off the Buffalo Sabres 4-1.
The victory ups the Jets’ record to 20-19-2 for 42 points and allows them to keep pace with the Washington Capitals — who knocked off Montreal Tuesday to stay atop the Southeast Division with 44 points — and move into ninth in the Eastern Conference.
The Jets are also now within two points of sixth in the conference, after the Ottawa Senators fell to Tampa Bay Tuesday.
Just as important is how winning the first two games of a six-game homestand has helped breathe new life into the Jets locker-room.
"There’s a better feeling in the room here," said captain Andrew Ladd. "That’s the main thing. We wanted to get that feeling of winning hockey games and feeling good about ourselves in this room. Winning games is the ultimate cure for that. We liked what we’ve done in the last two games, but there’s a long way to go here and we’ve got to keep our foot on the pedal."
No scoring in the opening 20 minutes, but a couple of significant developments had Jets fans — and management — cursing and holding their breath at the same time. First, Toby Enstrom exited the game after taking a hit and then trying to give it a go a shift later. Then Bryan Little took a Ron Hainsey shot in the hand, but did return.
Jets coach Claude Noel said afterward Enstrom is day-to-day after "it just seized up. It’s just something that happens when you put stress on muscles."
And Little, who finished with two assists, is critical to making the top line go: both Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored and the Jets’ No. 1 trio has 10 points in the last two games.
Just as was the case in Saturday’s win over Philly, the Jets took control in the middle frame with goals by Kyle Wellwood, Aaron Gagnon and Ladd.
For Gagnon, it was his first goal after 30 NHL games with Dallas and the Jets.
"That’s why we brought him here," said Noel. "He’s a guy I liked last season in the short time we had him. He’s just a good, responsible player who is strong on faceoffs."
The Sabres, who are now a woeful 2-9-2 vs. the Southeast Division this year, scored in the first five minutes to bring a little tension to the contest, but Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec was solid and his teammates were defensively responsible in locking this one down.
"I thought Pavelec was good when he had to be," said Noel. "He really held his ground. He helped at key times because games like that can get away from you. That’s one of the things we don’t talk much about. We just assume these goaltenders stop pucks, but there were some key moments where he made some saves where you need some help.
"He gives you that comfort."
After the buzzer
The Jets’ six-game homestand continues Thursday against Florida and then wraps up next week with games against Tampa Bay, Carolina and the New York Islanders.
"It’s nice to get something going when we obviously know we have to get on a little run here," said Ladd. "No better place than to do it in this building and get the fans on our side and revved up for a good run here."
Updated on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 5:57 PM CDT: retops pre-game report
7:50 PM: after 1 period
8:44 PM: after 2 periods
9:38 PM: game over
11:15 PM: game over rewrite with quotes
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