They call him captain clutch – and with good reason.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd scored with 1:43 left in the third period to tie things at 4-4 and would go on to score in the third round of the shootout to secure a 5-4 win over the San Jose Sharks Sunday night at the MTS Centre.
“It’s a big win,” said Ladd to reporters following the game.
“The way we won, the way we battled back with a late goal. It should do a lot for this room and against a tough team it will give us some confidence.”
Ladd tied the game in the third period after he took a pass from line-mate Bryan Little in the slot before snapping the puck glove side, giving his team a chance to win, and more importantly, earn some much-needed points in the standings.
He would beat Sharks goaltender and former teammate with the Chicago Blackhawks, Antti Niemi, in the shootout on the same side after making a nice move in close.
“I think he knew what I was doing,” spoke Ladd about Niemi. “It’s tough when you’re playing a teammate that you’ve played with before and have had a lot of shootouts in practice against.
"He probably knew one of the moves that I was doing and it looked like he even got there but I was able to sneak it under his arm.”
It was the kind of leadership on the ice the Jets needed from their captain and whether he meant to or not, it sent a message to the rest of the team.
“Not much more of a leader than that,” said defenceman Grant Clitsome, who also had a stellar performance, chipping in a goal and two assists in the win.
“He’s a pretty quiet leader in the room and he speaks when he has to, but his play shows it on the ice.”
A gut feeling
What made the win even more impressive was the style in which the Jets earned the two points.
Twice Winnipeg erased two-goal deficits – Jets were down 2-0 after the opening period, and again 3-1 early in the second – to battle back against a San Jose team who had only lost one road game in regulation all year.
But despite the odds being stacked against his team, coach Claude Noel knew Sunday night would be a special one for his club.
“When we started this game I was interested to see how the game would get played,” said Noel during his post-game press conference. “I was very interested to see where our team was at and I felt like we would have a good game.
“That’s what my gut feeling was. I felt pretty good at the way I thought we would play.”
Indeed, there was something different about the Jets Sunday night. The effort was there and instead of packing it in like they have in the past when trailing on the scoreboard, they found a way to come back and win.
“I thought we played with some heart and some passion,” said Noel. “There was a feeling for me that the team played together, all with the same type of engagement and I think that’s what I enjoyed watching.”
Third time's a charm
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 30 saves and stopped all three shooters in the shootout to earn his sixth win of the season.
The win was finalized after Sharks defenceman Dan Boyle, who scored twice in the game, was unable to beat Pavelec for a third time with a move to the backhand in the shootout.
Asked if stopping Boyle on the final shot of the game made the victory extra sweet, Pavelec replied: “To be honest I didn’t even know he scored two goals. It was nice he couldn’t score the third one.”
Pavelec has been outspoken about his displeasure of shootouts. But perhaps the fact he’s now won three of four shootouts this season, surely he must be warming to the idea?
“I still don’t like them,” said Pavelec. “Everybody knows I don’t like them but it’s part of the game and at the end of the year it can be the difference. I just try to make the extra save for the guys because they battled hard.”
It was a real character win for the Jets, battling back the way they did. They looked confident in the final stretches of the game and proved they have what it takes to battle with the best in the league.
It was the first time since opening the season 2-0 that the Jets have been able to string together consecutive wins.
In the words of veteran Olli Jokinen, it was another baby step towards success and they’ll have to continue taking those steps when they take on Detroit Tuesday night.
First: Andrew Ladd, WPG
He scored the tying goal late in the third and capped off the win with the only goal in the shootout. He was the Jets true leader and well deserving of first star.
Second: Grant Clitsome, WPG
He registered his second goal of the season, chipped in two assists and was a plus-3 in 22:18 of ice time.
Third: Dan Boyle, SJ
He was the best player for the Sharks Sunday night. Boyle scored two power play goals and recorded three shots in 23:30 of ice time.