Little’s hat trick makes history
First three-goal game by a Jet since club moved from Atlanta
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/12/2014 (2917 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Never, that’s when.
Until Friday night, that is.
Winnipeg Jets centre Bryan Little ended one of the most vexing droughts in the history of the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets Friday night at the MTS Centre, scoring the first hat trick ever for Jets 2.0 to pace his team in a 6-2 shellacking of the Colorado Avalanche.
Little’s hat trick was the first since the Jets moved back to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season — and the first in franchise history since Eric Boulton scored three goals in one game for the Atlanta Thrashers on Dec. 18, 2010.
“This was something that was held over this team’s heads a little bit, having Eric Boulton have the last one,” said Little linemate Blake Wheeler. “He keeps in touch with a lot of guys and lets them know. So it will be fun for some of the guys who are good friends with him to let him know it’s over tonight.”
Little scored his first goal at 12:29 of the first period to put Winnipeg ahead 2-1 and then added a pair 32 seconds apart early in the third period to put the Jets up 5-1 and extinguish whatever designs Colorado might have had on mustering a late comeback bid.
With that, a whole lot of Winnipeggers went home hatless on a night when dozens of ballcaps — and more than a few tuques (it’s December after all) — rained down on to the ice for the better part of five minutes after Little scored his third marker.
If there has been a louder moment at the MTS Centre this season than the delirium that followed Little’s third goal, no one could recall it Friday night.
“Our crowd is always loud, they’re like that all the time,” said Little, “but tonight it seemed like they were really into it. It’s the loudest I’ve heard in a while. It was unbelievable.”
Anything else interesting happen?
You mean aside from the 6-on-3 power play for Colorado in the third period?
With tempers flaring after Little put the Jets up 5-1, a melee ensued that saw the Avs emerge with a two-man advantage Colorado head coach Patrick Roy — a man who’s always had a flair for the dramatic — parlayed into a three-man advantage by pulling goaltender Reto Berra for the extra attacker barely six minutes into the third period.
An epic flurry of action in the Jets zone ensued, which saw Winnipeg further reduced to just two defenders when defenceman Dustin Byfuglien broke his stick and had to head to the Jets bench.
“We were just running waving our sticks around like idiots for a little while,” laughed Little.
But when the smoke settled two minutes later, the Jets penalties were over and Colorado had still somehow failed to score — much to the delight of the assembled, who erupted into a mocking chant of “Pat-rick, Pat-rick.”
There are nights when Jets tickets seem expensive. This was not such a night.
The numbers were gaudy
In addition to the hat trick, Little also had an assist to cap a four-point night. And he was a blocked shot away from adding a fourth goal into an empty net.
Not surprisingly, Little’s linemates also had big nights, with Wheeler notching three assists and Andrew Ladd recording a goal and two assists. The Ladd-Little-Wheeler line had a 10-point night.
And it didn’t end there — Byfuglien also made the night he transitioned back to defence from forward a memorable one, scoring a goal.
A Jets team near the bottom of the league in goals scored had itself a breakout night. “It’s nice to have more than a couple goals go past the goalie for sure,” said Ladd. “It helps the confidence, especially our line.”
Then there was the numbers underlying the bigger picture for the Jets right now, including:
❚ Friday night’s six goals were the most for the Jets in a single game this season since their 6-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on opening night;
❚ The Jets are now 4-0-1 in their last five games and have earned points in 16 of their last 20 games;
❚ Since opening the season at 1-4, the Jets have now gone 13-5-4 in the 22 games since.
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Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.
Updated on Friday, December 5, 2014 9:29 PM CST: Added slideshow
Updated on Friday, December 5, 2014 9:50 PM CST: Updates headline with final score
Updated on Friday, December 5, 2014 10:13 PM CST: Replaces pregame story with Canadian Press post-gamer.