Jets check their way to win
TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
|Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman battles for the puck against Jets forward Blake Wheeler at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 2, 2012. (BRIAN BLANCO/Reuters)
For the first time in 2012 the Jets are looking like a team that knows how to win.
The Jets checked well for the second straight game and once again took a tough opponent to extra time in hostile (sort of) territory.
And for the second time in three nights the Jets earned the extra point, this time getting an overtime goal from Kyle Wellwood in a well-earned 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was the first time since Nov. 3 that the Jets have won consecutive games on the road and it vaulted them right back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference and, more importantly, the scrapyard that is known as the Southeast Division.
Just three points behind the first place Florida Panthers, who hold the third seed in the East, the Jets go to Sunrise, Fla., Friday night with a chance to close that gap even more.
We all know how back-to-back games have gone for the Jets so far this year, but right now they’re on a roll, playing very well — especially defensively — within coach Claude Noel’s system and getting solid goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec.
A win Friday night would go a long way toward making believers out of all those who doubt this team can make it to the post-season.
The Jets are starting to excel during 4-on-4 overtime. They seem to thrive in the open ice and generated a few good chances, just as they did Tuesday night in Philadelphia. The capper was a beautiful passing play between defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, speedy winger Blake Wheeler and Wellwood, who found the open net to give the Jets the win. Byfuglien’s pass sprung Wheeler down the left side (where he has become a force this year), and he froze the defenceman by selling the shot before feeding Wellwood. Great play by some of the Jets most talented players ... Byfuglien looked outstanding for most of the game, particularly when he went coast-to-coast and clanged one off the post early in the third period. He barely missed a beat in his return to the lineup after 16 games, especially in the offensive zone. He completely changes the dynamic of the Jets offensive game by jumping up in the play relentlessly.
GREAT JETS FANS IN TAMPA
What an impressive number of Jets fans in the crowd in Tampa. When Wheeler scored late in the second period, it was probably about as loud as a home game for the Atlanta Thrashers last season. When Wellwood scored in OT, the Jets faithful took it to a new level ... Great goal by Wheeler to break the ice at a key moment, with just 15 seconds left in the second. The big forward went to the net, captain Andrew Ladd dished the puck and drew two Lightning defenders and Wheeler banged home Jim Slater’s rebound. It was a massive goal for the Jets, who had been hemmed into their own zone for a couple minutes just before that and hadn’t recorded a shot in 13 minutes of play ... Ladd took a slashing penalty with 4-10 left in the third period in a 1-1 tie. Nice timing. Still, those slashing the stick penalties drive me crazy. If Steve Downie holds onto his stick like he’s supposed to in that situation, there’s no penalty ... A huge penalty kill followed for the Jets, with Slater coming up with the critical shot block as the Lightning failed to get any pucks on net during the power play ... A big defensive breakdown allowed the Lightning to tie the game at 1-1 in the third. Toby Enstrom made a bad pinch, and defenceman Victor Hedman, who hadn’t scored since October, found a lane and beat Byfuglien one-on-one before burying one past Pavelec. Other than that, the Jets checked extremely well and held the Lightning’s most talented players off the scoresheet.
NO LITTLE GLORY, THIS TIME
Bryan Little had a golden opportunity to win it in overtime for the second straight game but couldn’t get the puck over Mathieu Garon. Fortunately for Little, his lack of finish was overshadowed by his own shootout goal in Philadelphia and Wellwood’s overtime beauty Thursday night ... Wonder what Brendan Shanahan is going to think of Pavel Kubina’s intentional cross-check to the head of Ladd in overtime? ... When the Jets took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty early in the second period it marked the first time all season they were whistled for a bench minor. They were the last team in the NHL to take a bench minor this season ... He’s no relation and I’m not sure how good a player he is but I sure like the name: J.T. Wyman ... The Jets have five points more than the Lightning and can you imagine how much better they’d be if they had even one of Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lacavalier or Martin St. Louis, let alone all three? ...
TOP-6 ONLY EIGHT TIMES
The last time the Jets had back-to-back road wins was Oct. 31 and Nov. 3 when they beat the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders in succession ... When Byfuglien returned to the lineup Thursday it marked only the eighth time all season the Jets had their six top defencemen in the lineup at the same time ... Johnny Oduya is an under-rated offensive player. He’s got lots of skill and skating ability and loves it when there’s a bit of open ice. You have to think the pending unrestriced free agent Oduya is good bait for the trade deadline ... Antti Miettinen may not have much in the way of hands, as evidenced by his zero goals so far this season, but he’s got a heck of a vertical. He got some big air while trying to get out of the way of a Zach Bogosian slapper in the first.