Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets bring their 'B' game

Impressive win gives team and faithful reason for playoff hope

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They'll wake up this morning still in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings and still staring at two teams ahead of them in the Southeast Division.

That much hasn't changed for the Winnipeg Jets.

But when they wipe the sleep from their eyes and stare in the mirror after a gritty 4-2 victory over the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins Friday night at a raucous MTS Centre, they may notice a couple of not-so-minor changes.

1. The facial tics brought on by their ineptitude in the second of back-to-back contests this season have -- temporarily at least -- vanished and;

2. Those nasty worry lines that had been developing on their collective foreheads don't seem so deep-rooted.

A good night's sleep can do that.

"These are really big points," said Bryan Little, who scored twice, including the game-winner. "To beat a team like Boston... these points mean a lot to us in the standings. We need to keep winning these games at home."

Starting a stretch of eight games at the MTS Centre that could very well determine whether this squad is playoff- or links-bound come mid-April, the Jets showed both some backbone and resiliency in picking up their 28th win of the season.

Leading 2-1 heading into the third, Winnipeg surrendered the tying goal just 49 ticks in. But instead of rolling over, the Jets responded with two goals -- both by Little -- in a span of two minutes and four seconds and then effectively shut down the Bruins the rest of the way.

Oh, and that streak of nine straight losses in the second of games on back-to-back nights?

That's kaput now.

"Regardless of the adversity or the situations that are happening, we're still focusing on the task, which I think has been a real positive for our team," said head coach Claude Noel. "From that standpoint, it's been very good. We don't get demoralized -- we had that scenario a while back -- but we've moved past that. It seems like we're building some confidence in each other and that's healthy."

The win improves the Jets to 28-26-6, one point behind Washington -- who knocked off Florida Friday -- and two back of idle Toronto.

The Panthers lead the Southeast Division with 65 points, the Caps have 63 and the Jets 62. Both Florida and Washington have three games in hand on Winnipeg. But in a week in which Noel implored his troops to steer away from staring at the big picture and focus on what's right in front of them, Friday's result -- and a second consecutive 'W' -- did have the Jets thinking of the possibilities that could come from more efforts like this one.

"It's going to be a huge two weeks for us," said goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. "It's nice to be home. We feel comfortable here, but it's going to be tough. It's going to be a huge two weeks for us. We're finally going to be home for eight games and we need to win.

"I wasn't happy with those two goals that I let in so I was trying to help the team get the win tonight, especially in the third. Every time we scored, they tied the game. It was tough for me in the third, but we found a way and I found a way to make the saves and get the two points. But we scored four goals and I think if we score four goals you have to win."

Alex Burmistrov, with his third goal in the last four games and 12th of the season, and Blake Wheeler also scored for the Jets. Wheeler, playing against the squad that traded him last year, finished with three points after setting up both of Little's markers.

"It seemed like in the third we found another gear," Little said. "And after we got that lead I thought we played our best hockey. We shut them down, we did a good job of managing the puck and not making mistakes."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 18, 2012 C1

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