Jets bring their V game

Panthers defenceman Keaton Ellerby and goaltender Jose Theodore make a save on Jets forward Bryan...

Panthers defenceman Keaton Ellerby and goaltender Jose Theodore make a save on Jets forward Bryan Little at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., March 1, 2012. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:06 AM ET

WINNIPEG - A two-on-one can make a fan set his beer down and watch.

A three-on-one can bring them out of their seats.

But a five-on-one?

“I’ve never seen that before, ever,” Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler said.

Neither had I.

Or Evander Kane.

“It brought back memories of watching the Mighty Ducks and the Flying V,” Kane said. “It was good to see.”

It happened in the third period, Thursday night, as the Jets were putting the boots to the Florida Panthers.

Steel-toed boots.

Wheeler started the play in his own zone, and next thing you knew he was flying the other way with linemates Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, and defencemen Randy Jones and Mark Stuart.

A wave of blue-on-blue. Nobody hanging back, just in case.

It looked a bit like a scene out of the wild and woolly WHA (ask your parents).

“I was really nervous, actually,” Wheeler admitted. “I heard the crowd going crazy, so I figured, oh, a two-on-one, three-on-one, whatever. And there were all five guys. So I didn’t know where to go with the puck.”

So he went to ... Jones?

“Jonesy seemed like a good option,” Wheeler continued. “Hopefully he wasn’t going to give it back.”

He did.

“He gave it right back to me. Thank god I was able to find Litts.”

That Little bit of magic made it 4-zip, but the fun was far from over.

Fitting the Jets made it seven, don’t you think? Since that’s kind of the theme of this franchise’s move to Canada.

All this in what the Jets were calling the biggest game of the year.

Head coach Claude Noel didn’t want his players leaving anything on the table, and they cleared it like a bus boy with a hot date at closing time.

Impressive stuff.

This was a Panthers team that had won three in a row, that doesn’t give up a whole lot. And the Jets made mincemeat of it.

Earlier in the day Wheeler said he didn’t like the term “A-game,” but he loved whatever this was.

“We got it, didn’t we? We pretty much had it from the get-go.”

The Jets came flying out of the gate the way you’d hope they would, and it was 2-zip before some people had their first beer, Kane and Jim Slater doing the damage.

The most impressive thing after that might have been the way the GST line started throwing their bodies at everything in white, Tanner Glass slamming Panthers into the glass, Chris Thorburn getting into the grill of Ed Jovanovski — it was as good a way to send a message as any.

This was, after all, the team the Jets so dearly want to unseat for first place in the Southeast Division.

That’s still a long shot. But maybe not a pipe dream, after all.

If a 7-0 dismantling can put a shade of doubt into the top dog, imagine what it does to the one chasing it.

“You could tell there was an extra little buzz around the city, with everything on the line,” Wheeler said.

The buzz was more like an earsplitting roar in the building.

A roar that made one thing perfectly clear to the team it was directed at.

“I think they want first place — they made that clear, too,” Wheeler said referring to the third-period chant. “That was great. Our team definitely had that feeling in the locker-room, and to go out there and get the same feeling from the fans was a huge lift for us.”

Maybe it was just one of those nights.

Or maybe it signalled something significant, a step in the growth of a young team loaded with players that don’t know the playoffs, don’t know how to win when it matters most.

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.


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