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Right way to start after break

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They weren’t without their warts and blemishes, a fact that was completely understandable after nearly three weeks away from real action.

But these "new" Winnipeg Jets — that crew brimming with confidence and singing loudly from Paul Maurice’s songbook — did rediscover some of their pre-Olympic mojo Thursday night at the MTS Centre in a 3-2 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes that shovels more coal onto the fire that is their push for a playoff spot.

The result was important on a night in which all of the teams in the chase for the Western Conference wildcard spots — the Jets, Coyotes, Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators — picked up points. This one day after the Vancouver Canucks, also in the race, knocked off the St. Louis Blues.

As it stands, the Stars' win over Carolina gives them 66 points, the point the Coyotes earned moves them into a tie with the Canucks with 65 points. The Jets are now at 64, with the Preds, whom the Jets face in Music City Saturday afternoon, just behind with 62.

Yes, the chase is really on now with the Jets into the final quarter of the season.

"Get used to it," said Blake Wheeler, perfectly summing up the sprint. "Twenty-one more of them."

 

MORE MO MAGIC

The Jets improved to 10-3-1 under Maurice and 29-26-6 overall. Earlier in the day, Maurice offered this beauty quote on his role in the Jets’ resurgence: "A coach’s job is to direct. But my favourite line on how important a hockey coach is: ‘A jockey has never carried a horse across the finish line.’"

True enough.

But the new boss still has the Jets’ collective attention. That was evident in all of the practices leading up to Thursday’s return after a 19-day break. And while it was occasionally loose against the Coyotes, the blueprint is still being followed.

"It wasn’t sharp. I think the whole night we were a little sloppy," began Andrew Ladd. "But we were working and trying. That will come. It’s going to happen after a long break. The main thing is we got the two points."

Asked if he had any concern the momentum the Jets had gathered leading into the Oly break might come to a halt when play resumed, Ladd offered a hint as to the club’s new-found commitment — and their new boss.

"The way we’ve been practising since Mo got here, that’s how you keep that intensity and translate it into games. I didn’t have any worries about that. We wanted to come out with a good start after this break. It was a sloppy game all 'round from both sides, but we’ll take the two points and move on and try to get sharper as we go here."

 

WELCOME BACK, FELLAS

The game didn’t exactly have the warm and fuzzy feeling of a meet-and-greet night after the Olympic break. In fact, it took all of 78 seconds for the gloves to drop as Zach Bogosian took exception to Rob Klinkhammer’s check in the back of Tony Enstrom.

That set the tone for a chippy affair that also featured 45 hits — 23 by the Jets, 22 by Phoenix — along with 18 giveaways and 25 missed shots.

 

A SOLID BY PAV

Jets’ netminder Ondrej Pavelec, who has become a lightning rod for criticism over the last few months, was steady and benefited from the Coyotes clanging three posts behind him.

But he stopped three of the four Phoenix shooters in the shootout — plus 34 in regulation and overtime — while the Jets got goals from Devin Setoguchi and Olli Jokinen in the skills competition for the critical extra point.

"We got the goals in the right time and we battled," said Pavelec.

"We knew it was going to be about the battle and how hard we were going to play and how hard we were going to skate. We did a pretty good job.

"I felt good. It’s nice to get the win in the first game back. But it’s one game. We go to Nashville (Friday), so it’s going to be another big one. I’m happy about how we handled the situation of the first game back. I think we did a great job.

"That’s my job. The guys in front of me did a great job. Phoenix has got really good defencemen and they can shoot the puck and they do it all the time. They let me see the puck and they blocked those shots."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press

Olympian and gold-medal hockey player Jocelyne Larocque drops the puck for Winnipeg Jets' Olli Jokinen (12) and Phoenix Coyotes' Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) before the Winnipeg Jets game against the Phoenix Coyotes at MTS Centre Thursday night.

Live Winnipeg Jets Coverage Twitter bird

  • garylawless

    @garylawless: pav was brilliant in shootout. and the joker still has a move or two up his sleeve. big win for #nhljets 9:54 pm on Feb 27

  • WFPEdTait

    @WFPEdTait: #NHLJets win 3-2 in shootout over Coyotes. 9:54 pm on Feb 27

  • garylawless

    @garylawless: this is a big outcome for #nhljets. they need to deal with adversity. have to find a way to come out with 2 points 9:24 pm on Feb 27

  • WFPEdTait

    @WFPEdTait: #NHLJets up 2-1 after one after Zbynek Michalek gifted one for Bryan Little. Wpg will begin on PP. 8:47 pm on Feb 27

  • WFPEdTait

    @WFPEdTait: #NHLJets and Coyotes tied 1-1 after 1. 7:50 pm on Feb 27

  • randyturner15

    @randyturner15: Mike Smiths can never get a break in this town. #NHLJets 7:42 pm on Feb 27

  • WFPEdTait

    @WFPEdTait: Coyotes' Mike Smith beefing about goalie int on Dustin Byfuglien after Blake Wheeler scores from a sharp angle. Now 1-1 #NHLJets 7:41 pm on Feb 27

  • WFPEdTait

    @WFPEdTait: Coyotes open scoring vs #NHLJets as Oliver Ekman-Larsson clangs one off post and in behind Ondrej Pavelec. 7:38 pm on Feb 27

  • WFPEdTait

    @WFPEdTait: #NHLJets starters: Stuart, Trouba, Ladd, LIttle, Frolik, Pavelec. Scratched: Postma, Peluso, Tangradi. 7:02 pm on Feb 27

  • randyturner15

    @randyturner15: Hey, it's about time the #NHLJets finally got their chance to host a Take Jim Slater to Work Day is all I'm sayin'. 4:40 pm on Feb 27

  • WFPEdTait

    @WFPEdTait: #NHLJets Maurice: Coach's job is 2 direct. But my fave line on how imp a HC is: a jockey has never carried horse across the finish line. 11:42 am on Feb 27

  • WFPEdTait

    @WFPEdTait: Jim Slater back for #NHLJets vs Phx. P. Maurice: "Seen him play enough fr other bench. I have a pretty strong apprec 4 what he can do." 11:39 am on Feb 27

  • garylawless

    @garylawless: return of Kane, Slater and Halischuk in many ways like deadline acquisitions. #nhljets had 5 lines at skate yesterday. 8:15 am on Feb 27

  • garylawless

    @garylawless: Next three games are huge for #nhljets. will determine Chevy's position at deadline. 3 weeks ago they were sellers. today? closer to buyers 7:59 am on Feb 27

History

Updated on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:58 PM CST: Adds photo.

7:54 PM: Updates headline with first-period score, changes photo.

8:45 PM: Adds slideshow.

9:10 PM: Updates headline with second-period score.

9:50 PM: Updates score.

9:57 PM: Updates final score, changes photo.

10:09 PM: Replaces pre-game story with post-game Canadian Press story.

10:41 PM: Adds video.

11:56 PM: Replaces post-game wire story with local post-game story.

February 28, 2014 at 9:03 AM: Corrects that the Stars' win over Carolina gives them 66 points, the point the Coyotes earned moves them into a tie with the Canucks with 65 points. The Jets are now at 64.

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