Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets bounce up off mat

Buoyed by crowd, squad rebounds from Detroit fiasco

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It's not an official National Hockey League commandment, but coaches and players regularly hold it up as a shining example of character, of want-to and grit:

"Forget turning the other cheek. Thou shall respond in kind when bopped in the lips."

As evidence we give you the Winnipeg Jets, who jumped up off the mat after being KO'd Saturday night by the Detroit Red Wings with a big-time response in a 2-1 victory over the league-leading Minnesota Wild Tuesday that had the rafters at the MTS Centre shaking all night.

In fact, they were rattling even before the opening faceoff when Jet faithful offered up a standing ovation for a squad that had been spanked by six goals in Motown in their last outing.

The Jets have now won five straight and eight of their last nine at home and are 5-1 in their last six overall.

"What I like the most is the emotional level we're getting to," said Jets' head coach Claude Noel. "There's no easy games, we're proving that at least at home and we're having some success but when we eventually get back to the road games, we've got to find a way to get our road record back to .500 (they are 4-8-4 outside Manitoba) and that should give us a little bit of a chance."

The victory is significant for the Jets for a number of reasons, key among them how it erases any concerns about a possible nosedive after the Detroit debacle and improves their overall record to 14-12-4. Just as important was the effort against an elite Wild team that had rocketed to the top of the NHL standings with a seven-game winning streak.

Winnipeg followed a familiar formula en route to the victory: leaning heavily on their goaltender -- Ondrej Pavelec was the game's first star after kicking out 34 of 35 shots -- while using the home crowd as emotional energy during any physical lulls.

Oh, and there's this, too: the Jets again played a marvellous third period to take the lead and then close out the contest.

"We have a lot of confidence," Little said. "At the start of the year that's one of the things we struggled with: closing teams out in the third and winning that third period. We were letting teams back in the game. Now I think we've got it figured out how we have to play in the third period."

Minnesota, which fell to 20-8-3 with the loss, opened the scoring after a scoreless first period on the power-play when Guillaume Latendresse beat Pavelec for his fifth of the year. But the Jets answered after some relentless pressure when Zach Bogosian's point blast eluded Nik Backstrom for his first of the year.

That set up the dramatic finish for the Jets as with five minutes remaining Blake Wheeler found a pinching Dustin Byfuglien, who then fed a perfect pass to Little on the doorstep for the winner and his 11th of the season.

"That was great effort for us," said Little, who extended his point streak (5G, 4A) to seven games. "We kinda had a feeling it was going to be low scoring the way both goalies were playing. It was one of those games that feels really good to win, especially after that game in Detroit."

JETCETERA: F Eric Fehr dressed for the Jets Tuesday, even though he said after the morning skate he wouldn't. Randy Jones pulled up lame in the warm-up and the Jets were also without Nik Antropov and Alex Burmistrov... The Jets' Bogosian received a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct with 1:06 left after a hit on Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

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

more coverage on c2-3

The Winnipeg Jets host the Minnesota Wild at the MTS Centre Dec. 13.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2011 C1

History

Updated on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 7:47 AM CST: adds links, slideshow

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