Jets beating up big guns

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:34 PM ET

The Winnipeg Jets completed an unlikely, yet impressive clean sweep.

Three tough Eastern Conference opponents came strolling through town this week and the Jets ensured all three went home empty-handed, earning a 6-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in a Saturday matinee at MTS Centre.

After convincing wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals earlier this week, many were wondering what type of encore the Jets might provide.

Would they come crashing back to earth or find a way to build on what were two of the most complete efforts of the season?

The answer was resounding, though a late rally by the Flyers — who got a pair of slapshot goals from Matt Read in the third period to make things interesting — gave the Jets some anxious moments.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Jets improved to 8-9-3 overall and extended a season-high win streak to three games.

“I hope this is who we are,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “This is where we want to get to. That’s kind of the standard we want to play. We’re a team that’s enjoying winning, we were frustrated at the beginning because we thought we could be a little bit better than we were. It’s a confidence thing. It’s just a group coming together.”

Funny how perspective can change over the course of a week.

When the Jets came home on the heels of a disheartening 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, some were wondering if the Jets were headed towards doormat status.

It was certainly a wake-up call.

“That was definitely a tough game, those are the kind of games you regret the way you played — at the end of the year when you need the points,” said Jets centre Bryan Little, who scored twice as the Jets jumped out to a 3-0 lead just past the midway point of the first period. “It was tough, but we rebounded really good. We have a lot of confidence right now.”

The Jets took too many undisciplined penalties in this one, but were able to kill off six of eight overall and got a huge short-handed goal from Jim Slater that made the lead 4-1 at 5:49 of the second period. The lead grew to 5-1 before the Jets took their foot off the gas a bit.

The Jets’ power play continues to ride a hot streak, scoring three times with the man advantage in this one on markers from Little, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien.

“This keeps us going,” said Byfuglien. “It’s huge. This shows we can play with any team. All three teams were top-notch. We gave ourselves a chance to win and we ended up shutting the door on them.

“We’re getting in the groove of things and that’s something we need. Our power play was good again and we’re just building off hard work and simple play.”

As the Jets hit the 20-game mark, one thing was clear — they still believe the playoffs are a legitimate possibility and they’re not afraid to talk about it.

“I like our group, I think we can do some good things and I still see our sights on the playoffs,” said Noel. “We can still kind of manage that, but we’re going to have to be good and smart.”

There’s a long road ahead before we find out, but the Jets are giving themselves reason to believe that’s a possibility after a suspect start.

FLIGHT RECORDER

Winnipeg Jets (8-9-3) vs Philadelphia Flyers (11-5-3)

6 - 4

THE THREE STARS

1. Flyers LW Scott Hartell — Two goals, two assists and a solid all-around effort for the hard-working forward.

2. Jets D Dustin Byfuglien — A goal, two assists and another solid defensive performance for the big fella.

3. Jets C Bryan Little — Scored the first two goals of the game to help get his team going.

THE SKINNY

The Jets scored three times in the first 10:15 of the game and built a 5-1 lead, then allowed their opponent to get back in the game and make things interesting before getting a late empty-net marker to salt away their third consecutive victory.

REPORT CARD

FORWARDS: B+

Once again, the forwards paced the offensive attack with five of the six goals (Bryan Little had two, while Andrew Ladd, Jim Slater and Nik Antropov added singles) and made mostly smart decisions with the puck. However, some untimely penalties — Evander Kane took three minors of his own during the third period — allowed the Flyers to hang around.

DEFENCE: B

Took care of the defensive zone well and worked extremely hard during the eight minor penalties they tried to kill off (helping the Jets go 6-for-8). Dustin Byfuglien was sound at both ends of the ice and adding a goal and two assists.

GOALTENDING: B-

Ondrej Pavelec had a mostly solid outing in what was his 12th consecutive start and didn’t have much chance on the two power play goals by Scott Hartnell. While we applaud the quality of the slap-shots Matt Read got off to score two goals in the third period, Pavelec normally stops at least one of those. Made 27 saves overall and evened his record at 7-7-3.

UP NEXT

After wrapping up a three-game homestand with three consecutive wins, the Jets open a three-game road trip on Wednesday against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.


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