Jets hit all the right notes in 5-3 win over Blues
Rejuvenated power play, timely saves help club capture second win in a row
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/01/2017 (2072 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Ondrej Pavelec reclamation project isn’t the only part of the Winnipeg Jets’ game generating momentum for the NHL club these days.
Gone but not apparently not forgotten to begin the season, Pavelec was handed a second consecutive starting assignment since his promotion from the America Hockey League last week and impressed again Saturday afternoon against the St. Louis Blues.
Toss in some slick puck movement by the offensive leaders — sparking a three-goal output on the power play — and a sound performance from the penalty killers, and a team that was spinning its wheels a week ago is showing new signs of life.
“The dividing line on our power play is Bryan Little. From the time he’s come back, we’ve got to be running over 20 per cent. Even on the nights we haven’t scored, we’re getting the time we need (in the offensive zone)”
– Winnipeg Jets Head Coach, Paul Maurice
Veteran centre Bryan Little scored a pair of goals with his club enjoying a man advantage and the Jets built a four-goal lead midway through the third period en route to a 5-3 victory over the Blues at the MTS Centre.
He said the Jets are most effective when feet are moving and the puck is getting thrown around with accuracy.
“You’re seeing it with some of the goals we’re scoring. Three or four guys touching the puck before it goes in the back of the net,” said Little, who has 10 goals and 11 assists in 26 games since he returned to the lineup Nov. 29 after missing 23 games with a lower-body injury.
“I say it all the time, that has a lot to do with confidence. It’s not like we’re trying to do too much, we’re making plays when they’re there. And we have the confidence to do it. You’ve seen the last couple of games with nice goals and nice passing plays. We’re making big plays when we need to.”
The Jets (22-23-4) haven’t stacked up three consecutive wins this season but get a ninth opportunity Monday when the Anaheim Ducks visit the MTS Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.
Winnipeg has been dominant this season against Central Division opponents (10-4-1), including 6-0-0 on home ice.
When the Jets halted a four-game winless skid Wednesday, they did it at the expense of the sad-sack Arizona Coyotes. The Blues (23-19-5) — a dishevelled group after losing their third in a row and five of their last seven — still aren’t the Coyotes.
St. Louis has plenty of firepower, with the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny and David Perron, and a blue-line corps of studs such as Kevin Shattenkirk — who had a pair of goals against the Jets — and Alex Pietrangelo.
But the Jets’ best players were simply better.
Mark Scheifele batted in his 21st goal, Nikolaj Ehlers scored his 16th on a wicked slapshot and captain Blake Wheeler finished off a sweet three-way passing play for his 15th.
“Trying to keep it simple, use our speed, that’s what gives us success, so just trying to stick with it,” said Wheeler. “I think our focus is getting our legs moving right off entry or winning a puck battle down low. I think it’s given us a little more separation to make a little bit more happen.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice raved about the work of his experienced, second-line combination of Little, Wheeler and Perreault.
“Little’s line (Saturday) was absolutely spectacular. A week ago they were all sick,” he acknowledged, before singling out the slick centre.
“The dividing line on our power play is Bryan Little. From the time he’s come back, we’ve got to be running over 20 per cent. Even on the nights we haven’t scored, we’re getting the time we need (in the offensive zone).”
Saving the day
Pavelec was outstanding with a 34-save effort, even replacing himself in the franchise record book by turning aside 25 shots in the second period. The old record of 24 stops in a period was set on Halloween 2009, when the team was based in Atlanta.
The Blues came in waves in the middle frame, buoyed by a trio of power-play opportunities, but Pavelec and the Jets didn’t falter. The Czech-born netminder robbed Schwartz near the nine-minute mark with a sliding save to preserve a 2-1 lead.
Those timely saves were missing from Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson in several games, leading to the arrival of Pavelec, who was out of the picture until his call-up Tuesday from the Manitoba Moose.
“I was focused the whole game before every shot. I felt comfortable in the net, that’s for sure,” he said. “The guys battled so hard in front of the net. That’s not an easy team to play against. Big bodies, they forecheck well, they hit.”
Wheeler, the beneficiary of some great passing by Mathieu Perreault and Dustin Byfuglien, broke a 1-1 tie 1:27 into the second. Perreault had the puck and, while falling, managed to slip it over to Byfuglien, who found Wheeler alone on the doorstep.
Little and Shattenkirk traded power-play goals in the first.
Stastny chipped in a third-period goal for the visitors.
Perreault and Byfuglien each had a pair of assists. Perreault could have had at least one goal but was denied on a brilliant glove save by Blues goalie Pheonix Copley, making his first big-league start.
“It was just a glorious chance and it seems like right now I’m struggling to find the back of the net,” said Perreault, who has just four goals in 35 contests. “This kind of stuff happens, but I’m just going to stick with it because the chances are there and they’re eventually going to go in.”
On the horizon
The Jets play their next eight games against clubs from the Western Conference, including six against rivals from the Central Division.
Winnipeg plays host to the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks (Tuesday) then heads to Chicago to face the Blackhawks Thursday night. The league then takes a break for the all-star game weekend in Los Angeles.
The Jets close out the month in St. Louis Jan. 31.
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Saturday, January 21, 2017 10:05 PM CST: adds final edit of story and factbox on injured players