Jets nip Canucks 5-4 in key pre-playoff game
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/04/2015 (2916 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The logic seems a bit fuzzy.
Play well twice — above average, the coach said — with plenty of control and grit and receive a pair of losses against the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers for your trouble.
And then there were the first and fourth games of the Winnipeg Jets’ just-completed homestand, games in which they had their solid moments but were nowhere near their best.
Won them both.
Saturday’s 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at the MTS Centre will not be the showcase video for the team’s season, but it is a building block in a push for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
With goals from each of four lines, three assists from Mathieu Perreault and a game in which they never trailed, the Jets moved to 92 points with just four games left, keeping the heat on their rivals in the Western Conference.
“The coaches have been preaching that hopefully we’ll be playing bigger games as we go along, so we’ve got to get used to them now, (deal with) the pressure, manage it and at the same time have fun,” said Jets winger Lee Stempniak, who had two goals. “It’s easy to say but hard to do at times, but you’re playing in the best league in the world and you’re playing games that have so much impact on the standings.
“As the third went along, they came harder and harder and we hung on for the win. I think we did a good job but you wish it wasn’t that close down to the final buzzer.”
The Jets opened leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 5-3 on Saturday but the Canucks, finishing off a four-game road trip that ended 2-2, weren’t just ready to go home.
Former Moose skater Alex Burrows had two goals, including one with 2:05 to play with the goalie out, to make for a tight finish. Vancouver stalled at 95 points but still has a comfort level, given their second position and membership in the less-onerous Pacific Division.
After their 40th win of the season (40-26-12), the Jets now embark on a three-game road trip to Minnesota (Monday), St. Louis (Tuesday) and Colorado (Thursday).
Points are needed as Winnipeg, still fifth in the Central, has its eye on one of the wild-card spots in the Western Conference.
The trip through the division this week will determine whether next Saturday’s matinee at the MTS Centre against Calgary will have any meaning for both sides.
With 4:50 left in Saturday’s game, Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom was crumpled in the corner. He eventually departed in extreme discomfort and didn’t return to the game.
Jets coach Paul Maurice gave no specifics and said the team will know more Sunday.
“It felt better after afterward than right when it happened,” the coach said. “We’ll get a good idea by tomorrow afternoon.”
The Canucks at one point seemed to have discovered a secret passageway to breakaways.
And a pretty capable Vancouver defence surrendered five goals.
So what gives?
“There was no easy breathing for that one,” said Maurice. “But it was good to win a game like that, that’s obvious. A lot of tension. You could see it in the puck movement in the third. They had some good momentum but at 5-3 I thought we did a real good job up until the last two minutes when the goalie came out.
“They do have some special players there. They’re an active group and they’re active off the blueline and it’s a challenge to sort it out.
“We sorted it out just enough.”
For the second straight game, fourth-line centre Jim Slater opened the scoring for the home team. Saturday’s was 4:34 after puck drop and his fifth of the season.
“It’s what we pride ourselves on, putting teams on their heels right away,” Slater said. “The coach has been preaching to us to get ready in this locker room before we go out. Whoever starts has done a good job getting us going, and line after line, it just seems like it’s flowing right now.”
Updated on Saturday, April 4, 2015 2:13 PM CDT: Fixes typographical errors.
Updated on Saturday, April 4, 2015 2:17 PM CDT: Updates with first goal.
Updated on Saturday, April 4, 2015 5:57 PM CDT: CP writethru, adds slideshow.
Updated on Saturday, April 4, 2015 6:34 PM CDT: Local writethru.