Finally it was the captain, Andrew Ladd, burying the winner 16 seconds into overtime, beating his good buddy Cam Ward to give the Jets a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
“The thing with us is we’re trying to develop a culture of working your ass off every day,” said Ladd, who has 25 goals.
“It’s one of those things where your leaders have to do it, and it has to become an everyday thing where everybody shows up and knows they have to work hard.”
Will the Jets (36-34-8) make the playoffs now? No, they won’t. They are six points back of the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals, who are tied for eighth, with four games to go.
Will the victory go down as one of the prettiest of the season? Probably not. But it might ease the pain a bit, considering it came on the road and they are now 2-23-3 this season when trailing after 40 minutes.
Enter the summer with wins like Friday’s in the memory bank, and days at the lake might feel a little bit better.
It could also help next season.
“I definitely think so,” said goalie Chris Mason, who made 30 saves to pick up the win. “Find whatever motivation you want. As a team, obviously we’re disappointed where we are right now, and you can take a good feeling at the end of this season and carry it over. That’s all we can do at this point.”
Nik Antropov gave the visitors a 1-0 lead, but then they sat back and watched the Hurricanes take a 2-1 advantage on goals by Derek Joslin (all alone in front of the net) and Eric Staal (short-handed).
Apparently there was a bit of a “discussion” in the Jets dressing room after the first, which was one of their worst 20-minute sessions of the season.
“I got involved, but they did that on their own,” head coach Claude Noel said. “I had some things that we needed to clear up from a coaching standpoint, but that’s what you have to trust, that your room is strong enough to handle some of those things. And they did.”
The Hurricanes went ahead 3-1 early in the second on Brandon Sutter’s 16th, but Slater tied a career high with his 11th goal of the season on a slick pass from Spencer Machacek in the middle frame, and then Wellwood set a career high in points with his game-tying power-play tally late in the third.
Winnipeg out-shot Carolina 18-9 in the third and 35-33 overall to move three points up on the Canes in the Eastern Conference.
“The perseverance and the toughness we played with was really good,” Noel said. “For example, a guy like Tanner Glass takes a shot to the foot. Turns out his foot is broken, but he manages to play through a period and a half to end the game. That type of desire and effort is what we’re looking for.”
Noel wasn’t ready to proclaim the victory a cure for what ailed his team this year, but it might make him sleep just a little bit better at night.
“It helps us a bit,” he said. “We can’t make a mountain out of a win.”
The Jets on Saturday will attempt to do something they haven’t done all year, and that is win the second half of a back-to-back on the road when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning. They are 0-10 in that situation so far.
“It would be nice if we were able to pick one up in Tampa,” Noel said. “That would be good for us because we need to build on some positive stuff for our own sanity.”
The Jets went ahead 1-0, fell behind 3-1 and then stormed back for an unlikely win when Andrew Ladd scored his 25th of the season 16 seconds into overtime. Winnipeg snapped a three-game losing skid and kept its faint playoff hopes alive.
Forwards (C+): After a horrendously slow start, the Jets finally put the pressure on in the second half of the game.
Defence (C): There were too many turnovers in their own zone, and too much time for some of Carolina’s forwards to navigate.
Goaltending (B+): Chris Mason played well, even though he was making his first start in more than a month.
The Jets, who are 0-10 in the second half of back-to-backs on the road, play the second of a four-game road trip on Saturday night in Tampa against the Lightning. The puck drops at 6:05 p.m.
Jets Replay March 31 2012