The Jets paid back the Buffalo Sabres with a 3-0 shutout by Al Montoya at the MTS Centre today, winning their third straight game.
Now 19-18-5 for 43 points, that’s only two back of slumping Minnesota in the Central Division standings but still six behind the Phoenix Coyotes, who hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference playoff hunt.
It’s Winnipeg’s first three-game winning streak since the first half of November.
Asked about the team’s improving consistency in wins over Minnesota, Colorado and now Buffalo, Jets left-winger Evander Kane said his team isn’t getting all wrapped up in any of them.
"I think the difference is that after we win a game, and we’ve won three in a row now, that we kind of have the ‘who-cares’ attitude now and I think we need to have a little more of that," Kane said. "From my point of view, I see that attitude starting to change a little bit. Three in a row is great but we’re still in the same spot we were three games ago — we’re out of the playoffs and we’re a ways out so we need to continue to win."
The Jets had goals from Keaton Ellerby in the first, Jacob Trouba in the second and Anthony Peluso into the empty net as Kane passed up the chance to score himself.
"He works hard, got open for the empty net," Kane said. "If that was me, I’d want that puck, too. So you’ve got to give it to him."
The Jets weren’t as sharp as they were Sunday in Colorado, several said, but they did enough to hold off the last-overall Sabres, who fell to 11-25-4. Buffalo beat the Jets at home Dec. 17.
"It wasn’t as well-played as we played in Colorado but we managed to get the win," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "I thought that we did some things good."
Noel, however, thought four power plays for the Sabres in the first period was an issue, keeping his team from moving the pace of the game.
"It was a game that was a little more challenging to win, this game," Noel said. "I don’t know that there was a great deal of comfort in the way we played but we managed things OK. We didn’t get ourselves into situations where we had consistently bad shifts.
"We’re going to have to be better when we go on this road trip but I think we recognize that."
That was Montoya’s cue. He made 27 saves to up his record to 8-2-1 on the season. He’s won all three games in the streak since coming into replace Ondrej Pavelec seven minutes into the game against Minnesota Dec. 27.
"Confidence, as a goalie that might be your No. 1 strength or weakness," Montoya said. "For me, it’s just about doing the right things in practice, working hard.
"Like I said earlier, the team’s doing a great job in front of me. Maybe I’m seeing the first shot but after that, they’re clearing rebounds out and we’re communicating in the defensive zone."
Winnipeg is now off on a three-game trip that starts Jan. 2 in Ottawa.