Noel able to coax more out of Jets

Jets head coach Claude Noel gives instructions during practice in Winnipeg, Man., Oct. 08, 2011....

Jets head coach Claude Noel gives instructions during practice in Winnipeg, Man., Oct. 08, 2011. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:09 AM ET

WINNIPEG - It was getting to the point where the Winnipeg Jets would have to consider changing their marketing slogan.

You know, the one that claims this team is “fueled by passion.”

Going into Monday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, you could have said the Jets were fueled by a lot of things, but passion wasn’t one of them.

Passive, they certainly had been.

Including the Thanksgiving weekend season opener, it was one turkey after another.

Through three games, this Jet was running on empty.

Monday, somebody finally found the key to the thing, and something tells me it was Claude Noel.

The head coach called out his team in a very public manner after its third straight uninspired effort in Phoenix on the weekend, and the result was a 2-1 victory over the Pens, easily the Jets’ best game of the young season.

About time, too.

“You’re down, oh-and-three — wake the hell up,” Noel said after the game. “You gotta beat somebody, sometime.”

Right off the hop, it looked like Noel’s public tongue-lashing had the desired effect, as the Jets spent the opening 20 minutes actually winning battles for the puck and going to the net.

These two rather basic items had been inexplicably missing from their game.

Apparently being called American Leaguers, the term Noel used after Loss No. 3, didn’t sit well with the home side.

Not that anybody disagreed.

“The games we were playing were not close to what you’d expect from an NHL team,” offered forward Kyle Wellwood, who opened the scoring eight seconds into the game, courtesy a brutal Pens giveaway by Zbynek Michalek.

Noel took a bit of a risk, albeit it a calculated one, in calling out his team so early.

Criticism like that can go the other way, eventually leading to coach tune-out, also known around here as Jean Perronitis.

The former Manitoba Moose boss didn’t even wait for the regular season to start pressing buttons back in 1996-97, sparking plans for the ensuing mutiny.

Noel, though, had every right to rattle some cages. The Jets hadn’t been falling just short, they’d been downright brutal.

No spark, no fight — and no chance.

On this night, though, they got all three.

The spark came on the early, gift-wrapped goal.

The fight, the Jets first of the season, came later in the first, Chris Thorburn taking a few more than he gave against Deryk Engelland.

The show of aggression suggested this team was tired of being the NHL’s punching bag.

“They were fed up,” Noel agreed.

The chance to win was provided by goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who gave the Jets major-league goaltending for the first time.

“It’s always about the goalies,” the Czech said, after accepting a congratulatory fist-bump from his head coach in the dressing room. “It’s my job.”

Mobbed by his teammates after stopping 28 of 29 shots, Pavelec acknowledged the world will be a brighter place now that the monkey is off the back.

“It’s fun winning,” he said. “It’s probably going to be more fun in practice, and on the road.”

Hearty agreement from the 15,000-plus, here, Monday.

It was definitely a big-league atmosphere provided by another sellout crowd.

Nearly five months after it arrived, the NHL finally showed up on the ice.


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