The Devils were like a wounded, yet agitated animal as they made their way inside the MTS Centre on Saturday.
Losers of three straight and fresh off a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild that saw future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur pulled after giving up three goals on four shots, the Jets planned to pounce on the Devils and that’s exactly what they did, needing only 82 seconds to get on the board.
But the celebration is delayed several minutes after referee Ghislain Hebert calls for a video review after Evander Kane tips home a point shot from Dustin Byfuglien.
The good folks in Toronto had a look and allowed the goal to stand as Kane’s stick was clearly below the crossbar when he made contact with the shot.
Before the night was over, Kane had taken the game by the throat by using his speed and driving the net.
Kane scored into the empty net for his 14th of the season and could’ve been credited with another — though the official scorer gave the eventual game-winner to Jets defenceman Mark Stuart after another video review.
Even more impressive is that Kane had a strong third period after crashing into the net and banging his right knee on the post.
Speaking of young players on the rise, you get the feeling Devils centre Adam Henrique enjoys facing the Jets.
After scoring twice, including the OT winner, in the first meeting, Henrique tied the score at 5:52 of the first period by wiring a wrister past Ondrej Pavelec.
Three of his six goals this season have come against the Jets.
Henrique was a clutch performer on the Windsor Spitfires Ontario Hockey League clubs that captured consecutive Memorial Cups and he was a dominant player at the 2010 event in Brandon.
With his blazing speed, it looks like Henrique has a bright future ahead of him.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd nudged goalie Johan Hedberg behind the Devils net late in the second period and took a tripping minor, giving the Devils a two-man advantage for 1:46.
Tanner Glass came up with a big shot block, but Patrik Elias gave the Devils a 2-1 lead at 17:17 when his quick shot snuck over the shoulder of Pavelec, who looked to be fooled on the play as puck changed direction off the stick of Stuart.
Hedberg’s puck handling blunder and subsequent turnover allowed Bryan Little to feed Alex Burmistrov for a shorthanded marker before the period was out to leave this game tied 2-2, setting the stage for an exciting third period.
Burmistrov’s goal was his sixth of the season and second in his past three games.
It was also the first shortie of his career and the league-worst 7th of the campaign allowed by the Devils.
Brandon product Bryce Salvador was excited to play his first NHL game in his home province and had a nice contingent of friends and family in attendance.
“At $173 a pop, it adds up pretty quick but it’s good to be able to play an NHL game here,” said Salvador, a 35-year-old defenceman who hadn’t played in Winnipeg for more than two decades. “When the team moved down to Phoenix, I thought that was it. A lot of people thought that. You have to give Winnipeg a little credit, to take a little gamble with this arena to see if something may happen. And look what happened? Winnipeg has really responded well with the support of the team.”
Devils head coach Peter DeBoer also had to dig into his wallet to purchase tickets for his relatives, several of whom reside in Winnipeg but several others made the six-hour drive in from Swan River.
“It’s a very expensive place, an expensive day,” said DeBoer. “I had the fortune of being here with Canada’s world junior team the year the tournament was in North Dakota. I spent about a week here. It’s a great hockey city, a great hockey province and I’m glad they’ve got a team back. It’s a great rink. I’ve been here with it packed, for a world junior (exhibition game) so I know what the environment will be like.”
The Devils were without centre Travis Zajac, who continues to work his way back after enduring off-season Achilles tendon surgery.
The Winnipegger didn’t make the trip home but is skating every day and DeBoer says he expects Zajac to be back in the lineup before Christmas.
Zajac was hoping to make it back for this game “for obvious reasons” (according to DeBoer) but he’ll have to wait patiently until Jan. 14 when the Devils make their second and final trip of the season to the MTS Centre.
Devils winger Cam Janssen suffered a mysterious injury after he was hit by Jets defenceman Arturs Kulda in the first period.
Janssen was taken to Health Sciences Centre for X-rays (presumably for a chest injury) and although few details were provided, he was released from the hospital shortly after the game and was able to travel home with the Devils.