BOSTON -- The game was a lot closer than many expected.
But in the end, the difference between the Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets Saturday night at TD Garden was unmistakable.
One team won the Stanley Cup last season.
The other might not make the playoffs this season.
With two goals in the second period, the Bruins overcame a 2-0 Jets lead and powered on to a 4-2 victory on home ice.
The visitors weren't without their chances to make the game 3-3 in the third period but just could not get the clear shot or whack they needed around Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.
Brad Marchand then gobbled up an Evander Kane giveaway -- Kane, a first-period goalscorer, popped off the bench as the extra attacker and immediately tried to force a puck to the net -- and scored into the empty Jets net with 1:09 to go to seal it.
"We were certainly happy with our start but they're a great team in the second and third periods if you look at their stats," said Jets forward Kyle Wellwood after his team's road trip this week ended 1-1-1. "They were able to pick up their game and took advantage of some special teams play and came back to beat us."
The 14-7-1 Bruins had a power-play goal late in the first and then Chris Kelly's short-handed marker in the second to score a clear victory on the special-teams chart.
The Jets struck out on the power play, zero for four.
"We kind of got a little rattled there," former Bruins forward Blake Wheeler said about the turning-point second period. "We have a few two-on-ones against in a row and penalty after penalty and you start doing that, it takes you a while to get your bearings back and in that time, there's a couple of goals against."
Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian, who played more than 25 minutes on Saturday, pointed out that neither team always gets to do everything it wants.
"They have some talented players over there," Bogosian said. "They didn't win the Stanley Cup by accident. That said, I thought we battled relatively hard and we stuck in there with them. But I thought we kind of got sucked into their game plan a little and veered away from ours.
"They have a good team over there. They work real hard and they stick to their system."
Nevertheless, the Jets have been pretty scrappy and resilient lately. Though they have played an NHL-high 15 road games so far (4-7-4) and just finished three in four nights, they are not out of the conference picture and are 9-10-4 going home for 13 of the next 15 games.
And this is where Jets head coach Claude Noel grabbed the post-game ball last night and sounded very sure his team was getting ready to make some more progress.
"We're going to get better," Noel said. "I can't say enough about our team. Our effort was tremendous. We worked hard and we played hard for each other. And we're going to be OK.
"I think if I asked our team, 'Do you think we can do better this next little while, knowing the teams we've played and how we need to play?' I think they'd all say to a man that we can have success.
"That's the important thing for us."
It's worth noting that the Jets still have five defencemen on the sidelines with injuries, including Ron Hainsey, who couldn't play a second straight game after returning Wednesday from a 16-game absence.
"When I look at the big picture, we're going to be fine," Noel said. "It's going to be a good month of December. It feels like we've been on the road for a month. There's a lot of fatigue in there, a lot of things that are tough for us. It's going to be a real good month for us to regroup and re-energize. We've got a lot of things to work on.
"I look forward to that. We've got to make hay. We're at home here and we can really put a dent in it."
The Jets start their home stint Tuesday against Ottawa.