Back away from the panic button, put down those sharp knives and make room on the bandwagon, Winnipeg Jets fans -- the local shinny side has found its mojo again.
For one night, at least.
The Jets, coming off one of their worst efforts of the season in Tuesday's 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, pounded a lifeless Buffalo Sabres side 4-1 Thursday night in front of another raucous full house at the MTS Centre.
"We wanted to challenge them from the first faceoff and we dominated the first period," said Jets' netminder Ondrej Pavelec. "We controlled most of the game, most of the time and we spent a lot of time in their zone.
"It was a great team effort."
And so here's a fresh, new spin on all the analysis -- and hyper-ventilating -- on the Jets' icky start to 2012: this crew has now won two of its last three and is not only within three points of eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, but three points behind Washington and Florida for first in the Southeast Division.
Winnipeg, now 22-20-5, faces the Panthers, 21-14-10, Saturday night at MTS Centre.
"(The Panthers) aren't too far in front of us," said captain Andrew Ladd. "They should definitely be in our sights. Every game is huge right now and so it's just another big one. You're going to have games where you don't feel like you have enough energy or things just aren't going for you. But if we have a consistent effort on a nightly basis we're going to be in a lot of games.
"That's what we want in here: we want guys to show up and battle every night."
The Jets welcomed back leading scorer Blake Wheeler after he missed two games after taking a shot to the throat and he was arguably the club's best player against the Sabres.
But there were a number of potential three-star candidates, including Toby Enstrom, who scored his third goal in three games, Ladd and Nik Antropov (goal, assist), Kyle Wellwood (two assists), Pavelec (25 saves), Mark Stuart (four blocks, three hits) and a host of others.
The four goals, just for the record, were the most the Jets have scored since a 4-1 victory over Colorado on Dec. 27th.
The power-play also came to life after flatlining with no goals in their previous five games to connect on two of four chances -- Enstrom and Tim Stapleton scored -- while the penalty kill shut down the Sabres on all three of their extra-man advantages.
"There were some real good things in the game, but there were some areas of the game that really gave me grief," said head coach Claude Noel. "The way we managed the puck in the second period in our 'D' zone... we missed some 'D' zone assignment. Our goaltender helped us out. We were a little bit fortunate so we've got some work to do here."
The Jets not only kept pace with Toronto and Pittsburgh -- both winners Thursday night -- but moved six points ahead of a Sabres squad that extended their franchise-record road-losing streak to 11 games.
"It's always great to get a win coming home from the road," said Enstrom. "To bounce back with a win like this feels good. It's fun to score goals, but the most important thing is winning and we've got some important games coming up here.
"With Buff (Dustin Byfuglien) out of the lineup you have to take a couple more shots. We've been struggling a bit on the PP so I've been trying to get the puck on the net and score some goals."
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