WINNIPEG - As soon as the buzzer sounded after Tuesday’s emotional win over the Boston Bruins, Jets coach Claude Noel sounded like he was worried the team was due for a letdown.
With the Carolina Hurricanes coming to town, a team they had beaten twice previously this season, Noel knew there was a chance the Jets would not be able to maintain the momemtum they’ve been building on this home stand.
Friday afternoon he was still singing the same tune and it seems his players were humming along.
“I’m not taking this lightly,” Noel said. “There’s adversity that’s right around the corner if we don’t manage this well.”
Clearly, the Jets are buying everything the coach is selling these days.
Dustin Byfuglien scored just 34 seconds into the first period and the Jets were in complete control throughout Friday night, skating to a 4-2 victory over the struggling Hurricanes, who were without top scorer Jeff Skinner (late scratch, flu).
The Jets played with authority all night, outshot the Hurricanes badly (37-25) and got solid goaltending from backup Chris Mason, who earned his third win of the season, all of them against Carolina.
The Hurricanes made a late push with a couple of goals in the third, but never threatened to get closer than that as the Jets hemmed them in their own end for much of the last five minutes.
The Jets said entering this stretch of mostly home games they could be in a position to challenge for a playoff spot if they played their cards right.
The last few games, it’s been like the World Series of Poker.
And they’re showing no signs of folding.
LOUDEST FANS IN THE NHL
The rest of the league is discovering just how passionate Winnipeg fans are and the Jets certainly don’t mind tapping into their excitement, posting “We are the loudest fans in the NHL,” on the scoreboard before the game. Not surprisingly, that drew a roar of approval from the masses, who are truly doing the city proud with their impressive support of the Jets ... It’s not often you see a defenceman standing all alone behind the opposition’s net and getting a chance to bank a shot off the netminder for a goal. Of course, when it’s Byfuglien you are talking about, anything is possible ... Byfuglien made a smart play for the goal, making Cam Ward look bad in the process, and the Jets got exactly the start they strive for, especially in front of the rabid crowd ... I really like the way the fourth line has been playing lately (other than Jason Jaffray’s bad giveaway for a goal against Boston). The line of Tim Stapleton, with Carl Klingberg and Jaffray has been crashing the net, generating chances, throwing some weight around and playing with high energy consistently ... Can’t quite figure out how Blake Wheeler originally got credited with the Jets second goal, when it was clearly Evander Kane who shot it in. They eventually made the change and got it right, but that’s not the first time there have been strange scorekeeping decisions at MTS Centre this year ... It could easily have been 3-0 Jets through 20 minutes. Not only did they outshoot the Canes 19-7, but Carolina defenceman Justin Faulk robbed Bryan Little, who shot at what he thought was an open net, with Ward out of position ... Wheeler has been very good lately. He’s using his legs to create chances and has shown some fancy stickwork as well. He’s still not putting the puck in the net but he’s picked up a bundle of assists, including three Friday night, and is now a team-high plus-9 on the season.
STAPLETON MR. PATIENT
Great patience by Stapleton, who was playing the point on the power play, to carry the puck into the middle and wait for a shooting lane to open up before blasting a shot past Ward to make it 3-0 ... Another fine play by Wheeler, making a nifty move in the slot and slipping a pass to Little — off Kane — for the goal that made it 4-0 ... Noel talked all week about the importance of scoring first and playing with the lead. The Jets have opened the scoring in each of the last four games, all wins. “One of the fears I have is what happens if we don’t score first?” Noel said. The Jets aren’t giving him a chance to find out ... The Jets are still tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference standings despite winning four games in a row for the first time this season, but with 30 points, they’re just seven back of the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers, who are tied for first ... Never thought I’d say this, but the top team in the NHL, the Minnesota Wild, comes to town Tuesday night. Don’t believe me, look at the standings.
The Hurricanes traded defenceman Tomas Kaberle to the Montreal Canadiens for Jaroslav Spacek Friday, making the fact they overpaid for the free agent the Habs’ problem. Kaberle makes $4.25 million a year and has a three-year deal, while Spacek makes $3.8 million and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Good move by the Canes, who got two assists from their new acquisition Friday night ... The Hurricanes have not played well this season but got their first win under new coach Kirk Muller Wednesday night in Edmonton. They have enough talent to be a better team, and there are plenty of people around the NHL who think Muller will be the next big thing in coaching ... Hurricanes C Eric Staal entered Friday’s game with the worst plus-minus rating in the entire NHL, at minus-17. He finished the game at -18 ... Tough for the Jets to turn around and play the Red Wings in Detroit tonight. They’ve had no success in back-to-back games yet this season and Detroit’s a tough place to play, but this team has surprised a lot of people already by compiling a 13-11-4 record to this point, maybe they’ve got another trick up their sleeve.