Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fourth line is No. 1

Trio pots three, scores tying and winning goals

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- They don't have a nickname -- at least not yet -- and two thirds of the trio are living out of suitcases and have no fixed address in Winnipeg.

But in a game the Jets critically needed in order to keep their playoff chances from flat-lining, it was the fourth line -- Tim Stapleton at centre and recent call-ups Spencer Machacek and Ben Maxwell on the wings -- who were all over the scoresheet in Friday's dramatic 4-3 OT victory over the Washington Capitals.

That trio combined for three goals, including Stapleton's punctuation mark in OT, and six points in the biggest game of the year for the Jets.

"We did a good job against their top line, which you definitely worry about," said Capitals' head coach Dale Hunter. "It was their fourth line that changed the game and they scored the goals."

Machacek now has four points in the three games since his call-up, Maxwell has three points in his two contests.

"Coach has given us a lot of opportunity," said Machacek, whose game-tying goal with 3:45 left was his first career NHL marker. "It's huge for the confidence. We just want to come in here and help any way we can to get two points for the team. That's the main thing.

"That (goal) has got to be No. 1 for me. I had a big goal in the Memorial Cup finals back in juniors, but this is going to trump that, that's for sure. First NHL goal... I've been waiting a couple years for that."

Both Maxwell and Machacek made the most of their minutes as the two St. John's call ups played just more than five minutes -- lowest on the team. But what they did in those 10-11 shifts should be held up as an example of how to be productive in limited ice time.

"That line was really good," said Claude Noel. "They didn't play a whole ton, but every time they played they were a real factor and that's why I kept putting them out there. I trusted the way they played, they had good energy, they were good on the forecheck, they spent a lot of time in the offensive zone so it was hard to keep them on the bench.

"It speaks volumes for them. Machacek gets the tying goal and Stapleton wins it... it was a fitting end. Our players were really cheering them on and positive on the bench for them."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2012 C2

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