With three consecutive wins against top Eastern Conference teams, the Jets are starting to fill their faithful with a whole new kind of hope.
The Jets built up a big lead against the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday and held on for the 6-4 victory, delighting another sellout crowd that had to suffer through some nervous moments as the visitors made a late surge in the third.
For the third straight game, the Jets were the better team on the ice, feeding off the frenzied fan support, pouncing on their opponent’s mistakes and dominating on special teams.
Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien just keeps getting better and better and is starting to resemble the all-star he was last season, Bryan Little scored two more goals — he apparently only scores two or none — and the Jets recorded their eighth win of the season to give them 19 points in their first 20 games.
Most importantly, on this three-game home stand, the Jets have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with at MTS Centre and, with a whole slew of home games ahead of them next month, could have a real opportunity to move up in the standings.
They have to go back out on the road again first, but if they play anything like they did the last three games, they should continue to gain points.
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Saturday’s game marked the first time the Jets won a game when Evander Kane was in the lineup and didn’t score at least one goal. The only other time the Jets won when Kane didn’t score was the Pittsburgh game and he did not play. Kane has two game-winners, two two-goal games and has opened the scoring three times for the Jets. That’s what you call a catalyst, folks … Kane managed a hat trick in the third period Saturday, but it wasn’t the good kind: Three consecutive minor penalties with the Jets protecting a lead … The Jets now sport an 8-6-3 record against teams from the Eastern Conference and an 0-3 mark against teams from the Western Conference. Any way they can just stay in the east when the realignment comes together? Hey, it works for the Blue Bombers … Scoring early is a big deal for the Jets. When they lead after one period they are 6-1 and when they trail after one, they’re 0-4 … The Jets have now been shorthanded a league-leading 100 times and spent 33 more minutes on the penalty kill than on the power play. The Florida Panthers were shorthanded just 51 times through Friday’s games. Only the Flyers have taken more minor penalties than the Jets, with 105 to the Jets 100.
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The fans booed lustily for Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky early in the first period until they realized he wasn’t Ilya Bryzgalov. The man who slagged Winnipeg but later apologized still heard it from the fans, who were calling for Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette to put him in all game. They didn’t get their wish, but they showered Bryzgalov with jeers when he was shown on the scoreboard screens … The Jets got a bit lucky in this game. Bobrovsky let in two goals that should never have gone in, on shots by Little and Byfuglien, the Flyers narrowly missed scoring at the end of the second period, when the puck crossed the line after time ran out, and Nik Antropov’s empty-netter was perilously close to offside … Amazing what the legacy of Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach still holds in this province. There were an impressive number of Flyers jerseys in the stands, many paying homage to those two stars from Manitoba.
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The Jets fans have clearly made an impression on players around the NHL. Flyers Chris Pronger and Daniel Briere both expressed how much they were looking forward to playing in front of such “rowdy” and “crazy” fans. And these guys play in Philly! “It’s always been a place that’s a lot of fun to play in,” said Pronger, who played against the Jets at the old Winnipeg Arena for a few seasons. “The crowd’s very exciteable and, now that it’s back, I’ve seen some of the games, it’s taken it up a couple of notches. I’m happy to see it back.” Added Briere: “It’s exciting, just coming to a Canadian city where the fans are crazy. Watching the highlights at night and seeing how rowdy this crowd is, I can’t wait to get on the ice.” … The Jets starting lineup featured three players who started the year in the AHL — Arturs Kulda, Mark Flood and Jason Jaffray — and one player making his season debut (Eric Fehr), along with Alex Burmistrov. … The Jets have used 12 difference defencemen this season and have only gotten better in their own zone (save for Saturday’s third period). That’s an impressive stat.