March 14, 2012
Jets shoot down Stars
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - The fourth line scored.
Then the second line scored.
Then the third line scored.
Then the first line scored.
Then the defence basically scored, but Dustin Byfuglien's point shot was actually tipped in by forward Andrew Ladd.
Ondrej Pavelec gets excused for not denting the twine because he made 29 saves to help the Jets snap a two-game losing streak on Wednesday night and keep their head above water in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Jets creamed the tired Dallas Stars 5-2 in front of 15,004 exuberant fans at MTS Centre, extending their home winning streak to three games. More importantly, however, it has them primed and ready for Friday night's humungous, gargantuan, massive clash with the Washington Capitals.
"We've got big, big game on Friday night, and that's where our attention is right now," centre Jim Slater said.
The Jets are holding down 10th place in the East, one point back of the Buffalo Sabres, who lost in a shootout on Wednesday, and they're four behind the Caps.
All that previous talk about must-wins? Well, Friday night will actually be one. All the Jets have to do is replicate what they did on Wednesday to the streaking Stars, and they'll be back in ninth place, just two points back of the Caps.
"That's two points, but really it's four points," head coach Claude Noel said. "It becomes a huge game. We look forward to that."
Winnipeg did everything it was supposed to do on Wednesday against the Stars, who had gone 10-0-1 in their previous 11 outings. The Jets won at home, and they took advantage of a weary squad that also has trouble winning the second half of back-to-backs (Dallas is now 1-10-2 in such situations).
Their complete victory against the Stars, of course, does nothing to cure the Jets' road woes, which need to be miraculously fixed at the last minute or there will be no playoffs. It can lead a coach to dream, though.
"It's funny, but you think of those things," head coach Claude Noel said. "The start of the game was better."
Noel said he didn't like the pre-game skate before his team's 3-2 loss in Vancouver last week after two days of excellent practice. So he made sure Wednesday's pre-game skate, after two days of excellent practice, was a little more intense.
He has no idea if there is any correlation, but you never know.
"We had a way better start," Noel said. "That helps us here at home. It helps us on the road, too."
The Jets need to win most, if not all, of their remaining home games, and they got that quest off to a great start against the Stars. Nik Antropov, Evander Kane, Eric Fehr, and Ladd, with two, had the game in the books before the second period was over, as the hosts enjoyed a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes.
"It's fantastic when every line can chip in the way that everyone did. I don't think we had a penalty tonight either," Slater said. "That's great when you can roll four lines and match up real well against the other team.
The Jets were extremely disciplined, not letting the Stars have a single power-play opportunity all night. That's the first time they've accomplished that feat all season.
The all-around solid performance improved Winnipeg's record in its in last 13 home games to 8-2-3. It also upped the team's record to 9-0-1 when hosting a team that had to play the night before.
"We had a lot of energy," Slater said. "I don't know how tired they were, but we had a lot of energy tonight and made them look more tired than they were."
So basically the Jets did what they expected to do. Quite soon they're going to have to do what they're not expected to do and slay that elephant in the room, as their road woes are being described these days.
A playoff spot rests on it.
"It's going to come down right to the end. In past years it's come down to the last game, and a couple years ago it came down to the last shootout attempt," Slater said. "You never know where it's going to end, and we want to be there when it does end."