March 17, 2012
Jets deliver back-and-forth thriller
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - It wasn’t the prettiest or most dominant win they’ve had at home, but at this time of year they don’t ask how.
The Jets got exactly what they needed, and that was a win over the Capitals to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
The first two periods were a bit sloppy, but the third period was a back-and-forth thriller capped by Dustin Byfuglien’s game-winner on a beautiful feed from Evander Kane midway through the final frame.
The crowd was amped up, a couple of Jets gutted it out through obvious pain, and they held Alex Ovechkin in check for the most part.
So that’s two down with one to go at home, and then it’s the real test on the road.
Friday night was a big game, but, as the players like to say, they just keep getting bigger.
There were quite a few people wearing shorts at Friday’s game. I’m sure fans were hoping to be able to wear shorts to a Jets game this season, but not for the reason they were on Friday. Would they trade 20 C on March 16 for minus-20 C and a playoff spot? Here’s betting they would … Don’t know if it was the magnitude of the contest or the weather, but it’s safe to say the fans were fired up for this one. The “True North!” scream during the national anthem was definitely the loudest of the season … The Jets responded by flying out of the gates and putting plenty of pressure on the Caps, but they couldn’t get that early tally like they did on Wednesday … Wonder if Mark Stuart is going to get a call from Brendan Shanahan after his first-period hit on Marcus Johansson. It was close, but the NHL is a little sensitive these days when it comes to checks to the melon, in case you hadn’t heard. Stuart wasn’t penalized on the play. Johansson left the game for a while but was back on the ice late in the second.
Were scouts from Manchester United in the crowd on Friday night? Dustin Byfuglien kicked it right onto the stick of Johansson, who fed Brooks Laich for Washington’s first goal. Later, Evander Kane tried to kick pass it to no one knows, and it ended up right on the stick of a Capital … Winnipeg’s passes in the first period weren’t that great when the players were using their sticks, either … Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. Here’s what appeared in the Jan. 4, 2002, edition of the Winnipeg Sun, talking about Russia’s top player at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Stonewall: “ALEXANDRE OVEICHKIN (forward, Team Russia). Great speed, great shot and excellent shot selection. He has a unique knack for finding open ice. Needs to work on consistency and overall body strength.” Yes, his name had an extra I in it, probably because of a different translation, but he turned out to be a pretty good hockey player. Other players who played in Stonewall 10 years ago: Dion Phaneuf, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Suter, Jeff Carter, Nathan Horton, Braydon Coburn and Ryan Getzlaf. Not a bad crop of talent … The odd thing about Ovechkin playing in the under-17 tournament just 10 years ago? His hair is already turning grey. Apparently it started turning grey when he was 17, just like his father. The stress he has endured this season probably isn’t helping.
Is Nik Antropov playing his best hockey on the fourth line? He notched his fourth goal in seven games. The only time he stood out this much was back in October when he and Alex Burmistrov were making magic together … It sure looked bad for Eric Fehr in the second period when he got tangled up with a couple of players in front of the penalty box and fell hard. He got up favouring his left shoulder, which is never good when you’ve had a few major shoulder surgeries. When Fehr got to the hallway leading to the dressing room, he threw his glove in frustration. The good news for Fehr is he was able to return just a few minutes later … The encouraging news for the Jets is their top line came to play in this one. In addition to scoring the first goal, the trio of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler applied the pressure nearly every time they were on the ice … There aren’t many Jets who can knock over Ovechkin, but Byfuglien is one of them. Wheeler, who is still in the process of applying for power forward status, got sent to the ice quite easily by No. 8 early in the second period … One skater who didn’t stand a chance against Ovechkin was linesman Brian Murphy, who accidentally collided with the Russian at centre ice during a stoppage in play in the second. The chants of “Ovie sucks!” from the crowd followed immediately … The crowd gave itself a hand with five minutes to go in the third after chanting, “Cros-by’s better!” And deservedly so. Those kind of chants, like “Sil-ver med-al!” for Ryan Miller certainly add to the environment.