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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Good to see some defensive mettle

Posted: 01/26/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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In the face of adversity, the Winnipeg Jets did something different than last season.

Friday night at the MTS Centre, rocked by a pair of first-period goals by Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, the Jets did not start looking ahead to their next game.

Instead they came out for the second period and returned fire against a quality opponent. The rally carried to a 4-2 victory, continuing a very good week that began on the road.

Certainly, you can call Friday night's win a measuring-stick game. But never, ever make too much of one game.

Still, it's safe to say that you don't build foundations from the top. And so the signs are there that the Jets are at least interested in turning the corner on last season's dismal defensive record.

Friday, there was plenty of eye-candy action. Goals by stars and big saves at both ends.

But what the Jets did so differently, and behaviour that will translate into progress if it continues, is that they defended better, supported the various situations that always come up in a game.

There weren't a boat-load of odd-man rushes against. The puck was managed better -- not perfectly, but better -- creating a higher percentage of success.

This, rather than offensive stats, will mark the advances the Jets may or may not make this season.

And so, there was no reason to think that old habits had returned with a wave. It's not like the Jets just paved the way for Crosby in the game's first period. Crosby can often turn little or nothing into ink on a scoresheet, or even gold. Hello Ryan Miller.

His first goal didn't appear to be that dangerous a chance coming off the left-wing boards, but a well-placed shot found an opening.

Late in the period, it was a two-on-two, which isn't that precarious in most circumstances. But this is Crosby, and he found the opening again, leaving the Jets and their fans a little on the stunned side.

But just temporarily.

Winnipeg seemed to just play on. There was certainly no wilt or tentativeness for the second and helped by a couple of large saves by Ondrej Pavelec, the team responded by not playing afraid, but with a some confidence.

The Penguins generated chances again, but the Jets had some quick answers and were as or more dangerous in the middle frame.

And with that came some confidence, so much that really, the only trouble the Jets faced was the desperation of the final few minutes.

And survived it. Not because they barely hung on, but because very little was all they really gave a very good team in the game's critical period.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2013 C1

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