Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

For Jets' penalty kill, it's a case of practice makes perfect

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For a team that has struggled mightily with consistency for most of its existence, the Winnipeg Jets have apparently discovered one building block for the future.

They are good penalty killers.

On the road, they are the NHL's best this season, and it was a major factor in Saturday's 3-1 victory in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.

The Jets marched in here and gave six power-play opportunities to a team that scored three power-play goals on Thursday night.

The Predators, though, couldn't crack the Jets with the man advantage.

"I think we feel comfortable," said Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who had to bear down against five minutes nine seconds of Nashville power-play time in the first period alone. "We know what we're doing. When one guy pressures, everybody's going. They block shots. That's a part of the game and how you win games and we've been good at it."

So good lately, in fact, Winnipeg has now killed off 33 straight opposition advantages on the road.

The last time the Jets surrendered a power-play goal on the road was Jan. 21 in Anaheim, and they have given up just two in 12 games in 2014.

Those numbers contribute to a league-best 88.2 per cent efficiency on the road and an overall 84.6 per cent rating, which is No. 6 among the 30 teams.

"I think we're picking our spots and we're getting some great goaltending," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. "I think at the end of the day Pavo has been our best penalty killer."

The Jets have simply played strong against opposition power plays. They continue to churn along in the NHL's top five in hits and top four in blocked shots. They are third on the road in blocked shots.

And these things have all been factors in improving to 15-15-2 on the road by going 6-2-1 in the last nine games.

Of course, Saturday's lopsided chart in advantages was not the Jets' plan, even though it's a strength.

"We didn't have any interest in playing with that fire," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "We'll take a look at the ones, the penalties we have to avoid taking, and we also have to recognize that our penalty kill's been pretty darn good, most of all because we seem to get a lot of opportunities to work on it."

In that, Maurice is correct.

Winnipeg is running at a deficit -- time on the power play versus time on the penalty kill -- away from home of more than 35 minutes this season, and that's among the six highest teams in this category.

The Jets are on an eight-game streak where they have not been the team with more power-play chances or minutes in a road game.

And while they don't have much interest, as Maurice said, of continuing that trend, there are almost no burn marks at all for playing with the fire.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2014 B3

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