Winnipeg Jets' goaltender Ondrej Pavelec flashes a glove, stopping Toronto Maple Leafs' Michael Kostka during the first period of their game on March 12. The Jets won 5-2. Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press
If the Winnipeg Jets can somehow bottle Tuesday's intensity and use it
for future contests, the club's long-awaited climb to NHL relevance
could come sooner than expected.
The Jets have set this course
before, of course, looking to turn the corner that leads to consistency
and sustained success. One solid effort against a team higher up in the
standings results in the typical overreaction -- that comes with the
territory in this market. But if the Jets can tie a string around the
convincing 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and remember what that
string was for, the chances of getting around that seemingly
never-ending curve improve exponentially.
Winnipeg improved to
13-11-2 and moves into an eighth-place tie with the New York Rangers in
the conference (28 points). As luck would have it, the Blueshirts are at
MTS Centre Thursday night; a game now full of anticipation, set up in
part by Tuesday's complete performance.
It wasn't that the Jets beat the Leafs: it was what they did to win it.
more than dropping the gloves with a Leafs team that loves to litter
the ice with leather. It's about getting involved after the whistle,
sticking up for a teammate (when liberties are taken, and being the
aggressor). It's a fine line and sometimes you get caught, but the Jets
walked it perfectly against Toronto.
Yes, there were fights. Chris
Thorburn, inserted into the lineup for just this occasion, fought Colton
Orr and Jets Andrew Ladd took on his leadership counterpart Dion
Phaneuf. Ladd's tussle against a stronger player was a 'we're in this
together' message to his team, and another example of why he's captain.
When the dust settled, the Jets roughed up the NHL's most physical team.
Leafs, down a goal in the first period, tied the score when PhilKessel
scored early in the second. Typically, this would catapult the game into
a defensive quagmire with the Jets dragging the opponent into a sludge
of watered-down play and lockdown hockey.
Instead, the Jets found a
different way to dictate the game. Blake Wheeler scored 25 seconds after
the Kessel goal to not only give the home side the advantage, but to
also give the crowd a reason to stay engaged. Plus, like most clubs in
the NHL, the Jets find it easier to play their own game when they carry
A rare power
play goal came as the reward for a good start and a perfect night on the
penalty kill (3-for-3) was highlighted by a killing a lengthy 5-on-3
Leafs power play (1:54) in the second period. It was the second time in
four games Winnipeg was faced with such a task (Tampa Bay was thwarted
on a two-minute 5-on-3 advantage last Thursday) and illustrated just how
far the Jets penalty kill has come. Eight straight games without a
power play goal against (25 straight kills) looks pretty good right now.
Antropov had three points (1G, 2A) and Kyle Wellwood had a couple
points (1G, 1A). Noteworthy why? Well, contributions from guys not named
Ladd, Wheeler or Kane have been few and far between for the Jets and
it's cost them dearly some nights. If they can locate bonus scoring
every night -- or even every other night -- it could go a long way
towards a successful playoff push.
Leafs had more than a handful of good scoring chances but Ondrej
Pavelec stood tall. His 24-save effort improves his save percentage to
.903 on the year; the Jets starting goaltender has a .936 save
percentage in his last three starts. It's been said in this space all
year: Pavelec needs to be one of the better players down the stretch if
the Jets want to keep turning that corner.