Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 17/2/2012 (2969 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They’ll wake up Saturday 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 developing on the 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 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 into the final period. 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 stand point, 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 the 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 do have three games in hand on Winnipeg. But in a week in which Noel implored his troops steer away from staring at the big picture and focus on what’s right in 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."
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Jets 4, Bruins 2
Penalties — None.
1. Winnipeg, Burmistrov 12 (Stuart) 1:59
2. Boston, Caron 3 (Kelly) 6:10
3. Winnipeg, Wheeler 11 (Byfuglien, Kane) 15:50
Penalty — Kane Wpg (elbowing) 13:20
4. Boston, Krejci 12 (Seguin, Lucic) 0:49
5. Winnipeg, Little 15 (Wheeler, Ladd) 4:16
6. Winnipeg, Little 16 (Wheeler, Enstrom 6:20
Penalties — Little Wpg (hooking) 1:43, Hennessy Bos, Stuart Wpg (roughing) 9:38, Kelly Bos (charging) 10:33.
Shots on goal:
Boston 13 8 12 — 33
Winnipeg 4 9 12 — 25
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Power plays (goals-chances) — Boston: 0-2; Winnipeg: 0-2.
Referees — Justin St. Pierre, Dan O’Halloran. Linesmen — Lonnie Cameron, Steve Miller.
Attendance — 15,004 at Winnipeg.
Join the Free Press for live coverage tonight as the Jets play the second of games on back-to-back nights Friday at MTS Centre against the Stanley-Cup champion Boston Bruins (7 p.m. TSN/TSN Sports Radio).
THE BIG PICTURE
It’s pretty clear, actually. Those holding out hope for a Jets appearance in the playoffs know that this eight-game homestand is crucial to that notion. No secrets here: Winnipeg needs to get on a roll ASAP, so the margin of error at MTS Centre is as thin as a stick blade. With Friday’s victory, the Jets enjoy a 17-9-2 record in downtown Winnipeg. They need to find the same home magic they had in December — beating Boston was a good start.
All the talk before the game was how the Jets were 0-9 in the second half of back-to-back contests this season. Not only is that monkey off their backs, the club is now has a little momentum thanks to a tidy little two-game win streak.
It has to be Bryan Little, whose two goals in the third allowed Winnipeg to reclaim the lead after watching the Bruins tie the score early in the period. The centre has 16 goals on the season, trying him with captain Andrew Ladd for second on the team.
FREE PRESS 3 STARS
1. Blake Wheeler, RW, Wpg — Scored his 11th of the season and added two assists on both of Little’s goals in the third. Wheeler leads the Jets with 42 points.
2. Ondrej Pavelec, G, Wpg — Boston controlled the pace of the game but didn’t have an answer for the Jets goaltender. Pavelec made the saves when he had to and flat out out-played Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
3. Alexander Burmistrov, C, Wpg — Scored the first goal of the game with a nifty stop and shoot move against one of the league’s best defenceman (Zdeno Chara). Burmistrov had a lot of jump Friday.
It is a trend that must change if the Winnipeg Jets are to become a playoff team and tonight another opportunity is served up to get the arrow pointed in the right direction.
The Jets will play the second of games on back-to-back nights Friday at MTS Centre against the Stanley-Cup champion Boston Bruins (7 p.m. TSN/TSN Sports Radio) and hope to end what has been a sad streak through the 2011-12 season: they are 0-9 in the back end of doubleheaders.
Asked about the issue following the team’s game-day skate on Friday, head coach Claude Noel replied:
“How many times would you like me to deal with that situation? We’d like to change that if we could. That’s about all I’ve got to say. To me, that isn’t going to be the issue – the back-to-back – it’s going to be our third in four (days), travel, where does the fatigue lie, how do you use your bench, how do you use your players?”
The Jets are coming off a 4-3 shootout win over the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul on Thursday, a result that improved their record to 27-26-6. Winnipeg is five points back of Florida for first place in the Southeast Division and enters the night four points behind the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It’s something you don’t want to have happen the way it has,” said Jets’ winger Evander Kane, who had two goals and the shootout winner against the Wild. “I personally don’t think about it. It’s just another hockey game to me, whether it’s back-to-back or back-to-back-to-back games. We’ve played them before, we’ve played them in junior before, so it’s nothing new.”
Kane did say he wasn’t planning anything dramatic to his game-day routine in order to change the back-to-back trend. Although…
“Maybe you just want to make sure you change your underwear and put on a new shirt-and-tie combo tonight,” he said with a grin. “Maybe a fresh suit right from the dry cleaners. Maybe something like that so that you feel fresh and ready to go.”
A couple of Jet lineup notes: defenceman Zach Bogosian (foot) did not skate today and will not be available for the Bruins. That means Randy Jones will dress again in his place. Ondrej Pavelec will start in goal for the Jets.
A look at how the Jets have crashed and burned in their back-to-back games this season: