Jets win first ‘playoff’ game

Victory over St. Lou had all the intensity of the post-season

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If this is what Stanley Cup playoff hockey would look, sound and smell like, the Winnipeg Jets and their long-suffering faithful have one message/plea to the gods of hockey:

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/03/2015 (2809 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If this is what Stanley Cup playoff hockey would look, sound and smell like, the Winnipeg Jets and their long-suffering faithful have one message/plea to the gods of hockey:

Abso-bleeping-lutely, please.

The Jets and St. Louis Blues served up a dandy Thursday night in front of an even-more-raucous-than-usual MTS Centre crowd with the home side emerging from a heavyweight bout with a 2-1 shootout victory that just oozed playoff intensity from the opening puck drop to the final horn.

CP John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS Winnipeg�s Andrew Ladd celebrates after snapping the shootout winner past Blues goaltender Brian Elliott at the MTS Centre Thursday night.

The victory extends the Jets win streak to three games, keeps them above the playoff line in the Western Conference playoff race and — almost as important — ends a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) against their Central Division rivals in the Blues.

“I’m not worried about our team playing over the edge with energy,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “We spent everything we had and we needed the fans to be as great as they were in that building tonight because they had a lot to do with us playing that hard for that long.”

The win allowed the Jets to move within one point of the Minnesota Wild, who hold the first wild-card spot, but fell 3-2 to the Washington Capitals.

A NEW NO. 1… WRITTEN IN PENCIL? It was the first time the Czech vet started three straight since November and he was steady again in the win. 

And even though so many have been quick to kick him to the curb over the past couple of seasons — especially after the long-bomb goal by Barret Jackman with 63 seconds left earlier this month killed a late rally — there were the 15,000-plus in attendance at the MTS Centre chanting ‘Pav-vy! Pav-vy!’ during a sequence late in the second when he stopped both T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo on Grade-A chances to keep the score at 1-0 Blues. Pavelec also made a critical stop with just over six minutes left in the game — and just moments after Stafford had tied it — robbing Jaden Schwartz from in tight.

All told, he stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced to improve to 16-14-7.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the way he played tonight,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “He kept us in it… the one that sticks in my head is right after we tied it up they had a good chance and he comes up with a huge save. He was great tonight.”

STILL NO BYFUGLIEN, LITTLE, PERREAULT AND CHIAROT: There was a whole lot of talent on the ice before the Jets ‘game-day skate Thursday morning, as the crew of Dustin Byfuglien, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault and Ben Chiarot all got some work in as part of their recovery. Byfuglien, who has been skating all week, had “plateaued” in his rehab, said Maurice prior to the game. Both he and Little are still possibilities for Saturday’s game against the Caps or for the back-to-back Monday and Tuesday in Edmonton and Vancouver.

EXTRA FUN: Overtime solved nothing, although both teams had opportunities to seal the deal — Jacob Trouba in tight on Brian Elliott and Paul Statsny stopped on a pad save by Pavelec just a few seconds later.

That sent the contest to the skills competition. T.J. Oshie scored for the Blues, but Pavelec stopped both Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen while Drew Stafford and Andrew Ladd found the back of the net for the Jets.

CP John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS Andrew Ladd, Mark Scheifele (middle) and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec whoop it up after Thursday�s thrilling comeback victory.

Stafford now has six goals and 11 points in 15 games since joining the Jets and his game-tying goal with 6:44 left ended the Blues’ shutout steak at 179 minutes, 32 seconds.

“He really has had a huge impact since he’s been here,” said Maurice of Stafford. “I mean he only gets big goals, big assists. He seems to have elevated the game, and so much is just an enjoyment in playing the game.

KOSTALEK SIGNS: The Jets announced Thursday the signing of Czech defenceman Jan Kostalek on a three-year, two-way entry-level contract with an average annual value of $850,000.

The 20-year-old is in his third season with the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL and has 43 points, including seven goals, in 55 games.

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

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Updated on Friday, March 20, 2015 10:42 AM CDT: Clarifies it was the first time Pavelec started three straight games since November.

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