WINNIPEG - It took a superb all-around effort, spectacular goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and a heaping helping of guts for the Jets to become giant killers.
Fearlessly blocking shots, matching the toughest team in the league physically and getting a third-period goal from Bryan Little on a terrific individual effort, the Jets downed the Boston Bruins 2-1, handing the defending Stanley Cup champions their first outright loss in 15 games.
The Jets have become one of the hottest teams in the league themselves, winning for the third straight time on home ice and thrilling their fans with a physical, defensively responsible brand of hockey, backed by one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL.
To be sure the Bruins didn’t have all-world goaltender Tim Thomas between the pipes, super sophomore Tyler Seguin was sitting out for disciplinary reasons, and they were playing their second game in as many nights but the Jets still needed a massive effort to hold them off.
They saw their opportunity and took it by the horns.
For the third straight game, the Jets outplayed their opponents in the third period, and not coincidentally, the rabid fans at MTS Centre went home happy.
Jets fourth-liner Carl Klingberg will be dreaming about his chance early in the third period that could have given the Jets a 2-0 lead. Bruins D Zdeno Chara made a rare gaffe, handing Klingberg a breakaway, but the rookie lost the handle after making a couple of good moves on Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask ... Shortly after, the Bruins came down and tied it at 1-1 on a goal by Shawn Thornton ... Just 1:34 later, Little won a draw in the neutral zone, used his speed to break in on a two-on-one and fired a low shot past Rask for the game-winner. Little has become an offensive force in recent weeks ... Loved the way Blake Wheeler used his speed in this game. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable while playing on a line with Little and Evander Kane.
Seguin was scratched for missing a team breakfast. It was good news for the Jets, but maybe a bit disappointing for some paying customers who wouldn’t have minded seeing one of the NHL’s brightest young stars ... Johnny Boychuk showed exactly how you neutralize Kane’s speed off the left wing with a big hit that sent the Jets’ budding star flying early in the first period ... Fans booed when Jim Slater took a slashing penalty in the offensive zone for breaking his opponent’s stick. Get used to it people, the refs call that one every time, as lame as some of them may be ... Great roof shot by Jets captain Andrew Ladd to open the scoring late in the first. Not much of an angle, but Ladd picked a spot over Rask’s shoulder and buried it ... Heading into Tuesday’s game, Chara of the Bruins and Dustin Byfuglien of the Jets had a lot of similar numbers. For instance they both had five goals, both had 18 points, both led their team in shots on goal and had a comparable number of penalty minutes (Chara had 42, Byfuglien 38). An area where they are not so similar is plus-minus. Chara is plus-18, Byfuglien minus-8 ... Caught a glimpse of former Jets goalie Bob Essensa sitting in the press box next to the benched Seguin. Essensa was one of the original Jets best goalies in the NHL and is now a Stanley Cup winning goalie coach with the Bruins ... Nice job by the Bruins, getting around the rules against changes after an icing call by saying the exhausted Adam McQuaid was injured. They managed to replace him with Chara, of all people, and McQuaid didn’t miss a shift.
At the start of the season, when many pundits were wondering where the Jets’ scoring was going to come from, a number of veterans suggested it wouldn’t be a concern if some of the younger players took a big step forward. It would be fair to say Kane has done that. Kane,20, had 19 goals last season in Atlanta, but this year he’s on pace for 42. That’s a serious jump in production. Another 20-year-old, slick Russian Alex Burmistrov, has only six goals last year but is on pace for 18-20 this year. Less of a jump compared to Kane, but still an improvement. And even Little, who once scored 31 goals, but has had no more than 18 the last two seasons, is on pace for 24 goals. That’s exactly the kind of production the Jets needed from three young guns ... For those of you who were mad at me for saying Pavelec needed to be better last week, I’ll admit I’m not saying that any more ... No Hainsey, no Antropov, no Fehr, no Meech, no Jones, no Enstrom. Tuesday night’s lineup was missing a bunch of regulars once again. The Jets injury situation has been almost laughable this season and you have to be impressed with how well they’ve done using a patchwork lineup for the better part of two months. If you told me at the beginning of the year this team would be around .500 with a lineup that includes Mark Flood, Arturs Kulda, Jason Jaffray, Tim Stapleton and Klingberg on a regular basis, I would have scoffed ... Almost as amazing is the fact the St. John’s IceCaps have a 15-4-4 record despite having a bunch of top players called up by the Jets ... Great job in the faceoff circle by Jets centre Slater late in the game. His wins were key to the Jets being able to kill off the final two minutes of an incredibly tight game.