On a day that began with the club’s head coach and star player in a very public disagreement, the Winnipeg Jets found consensus by night’s end Friday in the only place that really matters — on the ice.
Authoring one of the better all-around team performances of a troubled 2013 season, the Jets got first-period goals last night from Bryan Little, Olli Jokinen, Eric Tangradi and Devin Setoguchi en route to a dominating 5-0 victory over the Nashville Predators at the MTS Centre.
"It wasn’t necessarily a clinic," said head coach Claude Noel, "but we’ll take the game. We’ve had enough heartache for awhile."
Among the contributors to the first-period onslaught was Jets left-winger Evander Kane, who had an exceptionally busy day on Friday — getting into a public argument with Noel in the morning and then setting up Jokinen’s tally with a beautiful goal-mouth pass in the evening.
Put it together and the Jets emerged from a bit of a bewildering day with a key victory that improved their season record to 7-9-2, got them within two points of Nashville for sixth place in the Central Division and evened their home record this season at 5-5-1.
He said, he said
Kane caused a stir Friday morning by continuing to insist to the media he was a "healthy scratch" in Chicago on Wednesday night, contradicting Noel, who insisted Kane sat against the Blackhawks because he was still nursing a lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup against Detroit on Monday as well.
Noel told reporters Friday that the two men had met and have agreed to disagree, but the fact Kane was still making it an issue two days later was the source of some head-scratching.
Kane saved his most convincing statement on the matter for Friday night’s game, however, notching an assist, logging 16:16 of ice time, going plus-2 and generally leaving no further doubt about the current state of his health.
Little is big
Already leading the team in goals this season, Little added his ninth and 10th of the year Friday, book-ending the Jets win with Winnipeg’s first goal of the game at 3:04 of the first period and the last goal at 9:57 of the third period.
"Right now it feels like everything I’m putting on net is going in," Little said after the game. "I know it’s not going to last forever, but I will enjoy it right now."
If the idea behind starting backup goalie Al Montoya two games in a row this week was to serve notice to starting netminder Ondrej Pavelec that he needed to be better, it worked.
Pavelec was solid all night — and sensational at times — in turning back 41 Nashville shots to record his first shutout since March 1, 2012.
Pavelec said the shutout was nice, but meaningless. "To be honest, I don’t care if we win 5-2 or 5-1," said Pavelec. "It’s two points."
Finally, a four-point win
The Jets have been awful against Central Division opponents this season, winning just twice in 10 games against divisional opponents coming into Friday — including a pair of losses last month to Nashville.
"We dug ourselves a big hole already and we need to start digging out," said captain Andrew Ladd. "It started tonight, I guess."