December 10, 2011
Jets keep foot on the gas
By Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - So much for the theory the Winnipeg Jets were in danger of playing down to the level of their competition.
The Jets seemed generally annoyed this week when asked if there was any concern about a letdown after earning a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.
But after earlier losses to the likes of the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets, the question had validity and wasn’t simply a media-generated myth.
With the emotion poured into what was the Bruins first regulation loss in more than a month, it was only logical to assume that the Jets might not be as amped up for a game against the last-place team in the Eastern Conference.
However, with eighth place in the East within spitting distance the Jets played with gumption and were quick to show their recent hot streak is legit.
A quick start led to a 4-2 triumph over the Hurricanes before a capacity crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre on Friday night, helped the Jets improve to 13-11-4 on the season and gave them 30 points — one fewer than the Washington Capitals.
“When we play our game, there’s no teams in this league that are out of our league,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler, who led the offensive charge with three assists. “Not only can we play with anyone, we can beat anyone. We’ve started to develop a confidence in what we’re doing.”
That confidence is shining through with regularity and the Jets have reason to feel good about themselves as they’ve won four consecutive games for the first time this season and closed out their five-game homestand with a record of 4-1 — the lone blemish a 6-4 loss ot the Senators that saw the home side give up the lead in the third period.
“It’s a very important win,” said Jets forward Tim Stapleton, who produced the eventual game-winner with a rocket shot. “Regardless of anyone’s record or if they’re making trades, it’s the NHL and every team is good. You can’t not respect anyone in this league. We were ready. We took a pretty good lead there and we found a way to win.”
On this night, the Jets touched all of the checkmarks.
They scored first — on a bank-shot from behind the net by Dustin Byfuglien 34 seconds into the contest.
They extended the lead when Evander Kane scored his 15th from a bad angle and through a screen.
Then went for the jugular in the second period, getting a 4-on-3 power-play marker from Stapleton and got another from Bryan Little 72 seconds later to extend the lead to 4-0.
Sure, the Hurricanes added some window dressing in the third as the Jets let them back in the game but this one was never really in doubt.
“We’re still going to hit a bump somewhere, but mentally we’re in a good place and we understand where we need to go to,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel.
Chris Mason wasn’t overly busy in what was just his fourth start and sixth appearance of the seasonbut made the saves when he needed to — including a clear-cut breakaway for former teammate Anthony Stewart less than two minutes into the second period — to record his third victory over the Hurricanes this season.
“He made a few key saves and he was a rock for us back there,” said Kane.
There’s not a lot of time for the Jets to gloat as they’ll face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena in a stiff test against one of the top teams in the NHL
This recent 8-2-1 surge has the Jets believing and a win over the powerhouse Red Wings would surely send shockwaves around the NHL.
Winnipeg Jets (13-11-4) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (9-18-4)
4 - 2
THE THREE STARS
1. Jets RW Blake Wheeler — Came through with three helpers, leads team with 16 assists.
2. Jets D Dustin Byfuglien — Scored ever-important third goal, added an assist and played 22 strong minutes.
3. Jets G Chris Mason — Finished with 23 saves, but made some important ones during the second period when the game was still close.
The Jets score on the first shift of the game, pull away in the second, suffer a slight lull in third but nail things down with a strong finish to give them a season-high four-game winning streak and pull within a point of eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Came through with three of the goals (though Tim Stapleton was playing the point on the power play for the game-winner. Group skated well.
Another strong job of defending, limiting the number of quality chances against. Limited ‘Canes captain Eric Staal to just one assist.
Chris Mason earned his third win in as many appearances against the Hurricanes. Caught a tough break on first goal as it went in off Jets D-man Johnny Oduya, second was a nifty tip by Brandon Sutter.
The Jets were on a plan shortly after the game and take on the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday (6:05 p.m., CBC , TSN 1290).