Kane nets SO winner against Wild
|Jets forward Evander Kane gestures after scoring a goal against Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., Feb. 16, 2012. (ERIC MILLER/Reuters)
Evander Kane picked a fine time to score his first career shootout goal.
On a night the 20-year-old tallied his career-high 20th and 21st goals, the Winnipeg Jets forward gave his team a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild when he scored in the fourth round of the shootout at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night.
The Jets (27-26-6) snapped a two-game losing skid and earned a much-needed two points, getting to within four of eighth place in the Eastern Conference and within five of third, which is top spot in the Southeast Division.
The eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs have one game in hand on the Jets, while the Southeast-leading Florida Panthers have three more games to play. That's the bad news for the Jets. The good news is they play their next eight games at home, starting with Friday night's clash against the Boston Bruins, and need to take advantage.
"If we can string together some games like we did in December, then we're going to be right in the thick of it going on into the final games," winger Blake Wheeler told reporters after the contest.
The Jets, most notably Kane, walked the walk after talking the talk on Wednesday, when captain Andrew Ladd said: "It's up to our top players to be our top players. We've got to be there night in and night out and when we're not, it's not good. It's crunch time now and we have a good schedule here and this seems to be something we need to take advantage of. There's got to be that urgency in that room."
Kane must have been standing near Ladd or else he pays attention to the media, because he heeded those words and was flying all over the ice in front of a couple thousand Jets fans who made the trip to the Twin Cities. Netminder Chris Mason was stellar in the third period, in overtime and in the shootout, and Kane's linemate, Alex Burmistrov, had Winnipeg's other tally.
Kane got open late in the first and buried a great pass from Wheeler, and then he got his stick on a bouncing puck in the second and flipped it past Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who left his crease and paid the price.
Head coach Claude Noel didn't opt to go with Kane in the first three rounds of the shootout, but he tapped the youngster on the shoulder for the first sudden-death round. Kane thanked him my wiring an absolute laser over Backstrom's left shoulder. It was his first goal in five career shootout attempts.
"I haven't shot a whole lot in my career and it's my first shot this season, so I wanted to make it count," Kane told TSN Jets after the contest.
The Jets on Friday night will attempt to win for the first time in the second half of a back-to-back. They are 0-9 in such situations this season, and the Bruins were already in Winnipeg on Thursday night while the Jets were battling the Wild 700 km to the south.
The Jets played without defenceman Zach Bogosian, who suffered an upper-body injury in Tuesday's loss to the New York Islanders and is day-to-day.