Tight checking recipe for Jets win
TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
|Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov checks Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Feb. 7, 2012. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - The way the Winnipeg Jets have been checking lately and with the great goaltending theyíve been getting, they donít need many goals to get a victory.
The offensively challenged Jets only managed two goals, which seemed like an offensive explosion given their recent woes, but it was enough to earn them a 2-1 win over the red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night.
Playing their first game on home ice in more than two weeks, the Jets did the little things right, clamped down on the Leafs high-powered forwards for the most part and buried a couple of their chances to give their sagging playoff hopes a big lift.
Ondrej Pavelec made some timely saves, Blake Wheeler was once again the Jets most electrifying forward and grinder Chris Thorburn continued to show leadership, scoring his second goal of the season to get the Jets on the board in the first period.
Once again the playoffs are within reach, but itís going to take a lot more than one win to get the Jets there. This team needs to go on a streak and has a chance to really close the gap when it visits Washington Thursday.
The Jets have had a few chances to get close to first place in the Southeast Division this season and have come up short on each occasion.
The Capitals currently occupy top spot (and the accompanying third seed in the East) and are just four points ahead of the Jets.
At some point the Jets are going to have come up huge and win on the road in a critical situation such as this. At some point theyíre going to have to start stringing wins together.
Now would be the perfect time for both.
RARE EARLY TALLY
When Thorburn scored midway through the first period on a nice power rush off the left wing, it marked the first time in eight games that the Jets found the scoreboard in the opening frame. In the first half of the season, when the Jets were winning with more regularity, the Jetsí best period was the first. That canít be coincidence ... When they directed 12 shots at Jonas Gustavsson in the third it was the first time in 17 periods that the Jets managed to hit double digits. This team still directs a lot of shots at the net but misses far too often. They missed on 24 attempts in Montreal Sunday, but were much better in that department Tuesday ... Evander Kane made a nice move to avoid a big hit from Dion Phaneuf but still was taken hard into the boards after almost beating out at icing call early in the first. The Jets needed to see that Kane can handle the physical play after sitting out seven games with a concussion that has been bothering him since late December ... For the most part Kane looked like a non-factor in the game, but with the way his linemates Nik Antropov and Eric Fehr have played lately, thatís hardly a surprise ... The Jets got a good save and some luck early when Pavelec turned aside Tim Connolly after a beautiful passing play by the Leafs. A few seconds later Joey Crabb had a wide open net, but somehow swept the puck just wide.
BLAKE SHOWS WHEELS
A year ago Wheeler was a third liner for the Boston Bruins, but there he was Tuesday night leading all Jets forwards in ice-time with 20:29. Wheeler went off favouring his right leg one minute and the next he was streaking down the left wing and making his signature power move to the net, which resulted in a rebound goal for Bryan Little. Wheeler, one of the best skating forwards in the league, is fantastic coming off the left wing and is a threat almost every game ... The Jets have had great defence and goaltending for the last month. Even though he has a 4-5-1 record in the last 10 games, Pavelec has a .921 save percentage and has improved his numbers across the board ... Love the effort of the GST Line, especially when it contributes a goal like Tuesday night, but sometimes Jim Slater, Tanner Glass and Thorburn look like they are killing penalties when at even strength.
JETS FINISHED STRONG
Terrific last two minutes by the Jets, who kept the Leafs completely hemmed in their own zone and didnít allow any late chances ... The Jets fourth line of Alex Burmistrov, Antti Miettinen and Aaron Gagnon looked dangerous again. If they can put a few pucks in the net it could be huge for the Jets down the stretch ... Phil Kessel scored a sweet first-period goal, working off the left wing and using Toby Enstrom as a screen to beat Pavelec with a low shot. Kessel is exactly the type of sniper the Jets need. Someone who can get you goals even if the defenceman makes the right play and the scoring chance isnít that great ... Thorburn, who is suddenly the Jets hottest player with a modest two goals in the last five games, tied it at 1-1 in the first after a great rush by Zach Bogosian, who used his great skating ability to shake a forechecker behind the net before setting up the play ... It looked like Phaneuf left his feet to hammer Bogosian after he had released the puck in the second period. Bogosian left the ice looking injured, but was just winded. Phaneufís a great hitter but many of his hits are borderline ... The Jets have now gone seven games without a power play goal ... The Leafs actually took two minor penalties, which is rare for that team. They donít take many penalties, which seems to be their strategy for combating the fact they have the second-worst penalty kill in the league ... All the Jets hard work could have been wasted had it not been for a brilliant save by Pavelec off Matthew Lombardi in the third period. Terrific job by the Jets goalie to stay with the attacker, who had a partial breakaway ... The Jets were livid when Gustavsson played the puck outside the trapezoid on a delayed penalty call against the Leafs but wasnít given an extra minor. Should have been an easy, automatic call for the referees.