Another memorable Jets moment

Winnipeg Jets' Evander Kane (R) is run into the boards by Toronto Maple Leafs' Keith Aulie during...

Winnipeg Jets' Evander Kane (R) is run into the boards by Toronto Maple Leafs' Keith Aulie during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Winnipeg December 31, 2011. (REUTERS/Fred Greenslade)

Ted Wyman, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:55 PM ET

WINNIPEG - On the last night of one of the greatest years in Winnipeg sports history, the Jets made another memorable moment.

Before an absolutely electric crowd that was scattered liberally with Leafs fans, the Jets skated to a hard-fought 3-2 win over a key conference rival and took another step forward in their push to be a part of the playoff mix.

The Jets held off a furious Leafs charge in the third period to make it a happy new year for Winnipeggers, who have been on Cloud 9 since the minute it was announced the NHL would return to the city back on May 31.

It was a feisty, scrappy affair with lots of charging the net, good scoring chances at both ends and plenty of speed -- an absolutely entertaining hockey game that allowed both teams to show their ample skills.

It was a fitting end to the year that has been one big party for Jets fans and with their team now sporting as true .500 record of 19-14-5 and sitting in seventh spot in the Eastern Conference after going 10-3-1 in December, fans have legitimate hope that 2012 will be another memorable one.

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The Leafs came out roaring in the third period, starting on a power play, getting another man-advantage right away and putting all kinds of pressure on the Jets. They had seven shots before the Jets got one and they doubled their shot total in the third period, but they couldn’t get the equalizer past Ondrej Pavelec. The Jets are now 16-0-1 when leading after two periods this year …. Some people were surprised there weren’t more Leafs fans in attendance and while we don’t doubt there are many more who would have liked to be at the game, there just aren’t that many tickets available … The Jets and Leafs have very similar colours in their jerseys and there were a lot of both in the stands but they all blended in so it was hard to tell just how much support there was for the visiting team … The first derisive chants for Morweena’s James Reimer came before the opening faceoff. So much for home province favouritism … The Jets fans picked Phil Kessel as their favourite target to boo right of the bat but reserved even louder jeers for Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf.

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Jets fans collectively held their breath 3:28 into the first when leading scorer Evander Kane went hard into the boards after getting hooked on a potential two-on-one by Keith Aulie of the Leafs. Kane looked to be hurting but skated off to a huge cheer was back for his next shift. The Jets have played without a lot of players this season but it would be hard for them to do without their one consistent goal scorer … The Leafs were hoping to get off to a quick start to quiet the Winnipeg fans, but didn’t get their first shot on goal until 7:44 into the first period. Still, they generated plenty of pressure late in the period and it eventually led to a rare first period goal for the visiting team at MTS Centre. Great play by Phaneuf to move puck along the blue-line to Carl Gunnarsson, who made a gorgeous feed to Clarke MacArthur for a power-play goal to make it 1-0. Plenty of Leafs fans made themselves known at that moment.

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Sign in the stands: “I’d rather be without a team for 15 years than be a Leaf fan.” Ouch … Toronto Sun scribe Rob Longley was disappointed in Winnipeg. It was far too warm. Apparently we’re not living up to our reputation as the coldest city in the hemisphere … Turnovers near either blue-line by Jets captain Andrew Ladd have been for too common this season … The biggest story of the first period was Phaneuf’s physical ability to neutralize Kane. The Jets power forward looked off his game … It was no coincidence that when the Jets got their first goal, it was Phaneuf who was in the penalty box … The Jets took over early in the second period when Zach Bogosian blasted home a shot during a power play against the league’s worst penalty kill. Shortly after another Jets power play, Ladd shovelled one in from in tight after a nice feed from former Leaf Kyle Wellwood. The Jets had more goals (two) than the Leafs had shots through the first seven minutes of the second period … Some poor rebound control by Pavelec allowed Phil Kessel to tie it up, a big bounce back from a Leafs team that looked fully on its heels … The Leafs couldn’t find a way to stay out of the penalty box (much like the Jets early this season) and, with Joey Crabb in the box for charging, Blake Wheeler made it 3-2 Jets. Much like we said the Jets won’t make the playoffs if they can’t win any back-to-back games, we can’t imagine the Leafs making it with the worst penalty killing in the league. The Leafs have allowed power-play goals in 26 of the 38 games they’ve played this season.

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It sure sounded like the crowd influenced referee Tim Peel in his decision to call a penalty on Leafs defenceman Cody Franson. Fans roared when Franson marginally hauled down Alex Burmistrov and it took Peel a few seconds before he decided to call the penalty. Leafs fans must have loved that … Jets D Tobias Enstrom tied Dany Heatley for fifth on the franchise points list with 181 points after picking up an assist on Bogosian’s goal … Even without Bryan Little and Jim Slater, the Jets dominated in the faceoff circle Saturday night, winning 63% of their draws. How about Patrice Cormier, who went 8-0 in the faceoff circle and is now 12-0 in his first two games since getting called up from St. John’s … A chant went up in the third that we haven’t heard yet this year. “Leafs suck.” Very creative, Jets fans … The Jets were buzzing Saturday about the performance and antics of Czech goalie Petr Mrazek in a win over the United States at the world junior hockey championship on Friday. “It’s a big win for them,” Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec said. “They were really excited, he was really excited. Probably only the U.S. guys are mad right now because they are going home.” “I thought it was a little over the top,” Jets centre Tim Stapleton said. “Give the kid credit … they won. I don’t know if I’m all for the celebrations, though.” “It’s fine to be excited and happy. At a certain point it was way overboard,” said Jets forward Blake Wheeler. Not coincidentally, Pavelec is from the Czech Republic, while Stapleton and Wheeler are American.

Ted.wyman@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

 


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