Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Playing for Maurice a learning experience

Coach did lot of teaching while running show

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MEMBERS of the Winnipeg Jets are still marvelling at the city and its rabid hockey fans.

Last Tuesday and Saturday, they sent the home team off the MTS Centre ice with catcalls and booing.

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Monday, after the team changed coaches from Claude Noel to Paul Maurice then roared to a convincing 5-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, the wonder continued.

"It definitely feels nice," Jets centre Bryan Little said after the team snapped its five-game losing streak. "It's a funny game. One game they hate you and they're booing you and the next game you're heroes again.

"For us, you've just got to try to keep a level head and know that winning this one game isn't really anything.

"We've got a ton of work to do."

Little said Maurice, the veteran of nearly 1,100 NHL games, was coaching up a storm during his first game.

"He didn't do a lot of yelling but he did a lot of teaching," Little said. "It seemed like you'd come off the ice and he was talking to you a lot.

"It was a lot of teaching during the game, which I liked and we needed."

The input was some X's and O's, but also just feedback about the very small in-game adjustments Maurice wanted the Jets to start with.

Maurice chuckled later in his post-game press conference about being concerned about giving his players information overload, but at times he just couldn't help himself.

"It's only the first game," Little said. "I don't know if he's like that all the time -- I don't really know him yet -- but I think it's the first game and he's trying to teach guys a lot more than usual. But he was trying to let guys know, this is how we play now."

Part of the change on Monday was to move away from a fragile state. That showed itself in the first period, when the Coyotes struck first on Oliver Ekman-Larsson's power-play goal.

It was answered in 36 seconds with a marker from Olli Jokinen.

"When you get a goal the next shift, that does a lot to get the energy back on the bench," captain Andrew Ladd said. "So kudos to Olli and that line for getting us going. I think that something (Maurice) really wants to get going with us is, that no matter what happens, no matter if there's a goal scored against, we need to keep playing the same way, the same system. And I thought we did a good job of that tonight, no matter if it was 2-1 or 5-1."

Ladd said the coaching change was a major wake-up call.

"It usually gives your dressing room a jolt, makes everybody look at themselves in the mirror and you tell yourself you've got to be better," he said. "I thought to a man we did a good job of being ready tonight and playing the right way."

The pall over the dressing room in the last week wasn't erased immediately, goalie Ondrej Pavelec said.

But after recording his 12th win of the year by stopping 18 shots, he was relieved.

"It wasn't easy, what happened (Sunday)," Pavelec said. "I think we responded really well. I think everybody was excited but I was really nervous. But the whole team was really focused.

"We played really good, with responsibility. I think it's a good win for us but we have to keep going."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2014 C2

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