Jets earn big win despite sloppy 2nd period
The Jets didn’t need any added incentive Tuesday night.
With the Dallas Stars in town — a team that was separated from the Jets by just eight points in the standings and with a game in hand — Winnipeg understood the need for a win.
And although the game plan wasn’t executed for the full 60 minutes, the Jets managed to escape with a valuable two points, beating the Stars 4-2 to maintain a loose grip on the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.
“Good first. Good third. Didn’t like the second,” was the way Jets head coach Paul Maurice summed up the win, referring to his team’s effort in each period of play.
It was a conservative evaluation of a game that saw its fair share of both positive and negative.
The first 20 minutes were what you’d expect from the Jets. It was hard hitting and chances were traded back and forth, the byproduct of two desperate teams mired in losing skids. Winnipeg had lost two straight while the Stars had dropped their last three.
The Jets would eventually capitalize on some early puck luck, with forward Bryan Little banking a shot off the leg of Dallas defenceman Alex Goligoski on the power play to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
That’s when things got ugly for the home side.
Collectively looking like deer stuck in headlights, the Jets were victimized from the opening puck drop. After peppering Jets' goalie Michael Hutchison with quality chance after quality chance, the Stars finally pulled even with a goal from Erik Cole at the 12-minute mark.
“We just stopped skating,” said Maurice. “And it’s all part of that process that you have to learn when you’re holding onto a game. We had to get back to skating, just playing, and once we got skating we were fine.”
Lowry lifts Jets
The Jets would eventually find their bearings late in the period, propelled by a goal from rookie Adam Lowry with just over five minutes to go.
Lowry banged home his own rebound, showing off some nifty stick work in front to cash in on his seventh of the season. It was the first two shots for the Jets in a period they were outshot 10-4.
With Blake Wheeler and Mathieu Perreault both out of the lineup with lower body injuries, it was Lowry who was given some extra attention Tuesday. The Jets rookie not only finished with a goal but also logged a career-high 17:50 of ice time.
“We’re looking for full value of the experience of Adam Lowry right now,” said Maurice. “He’s a really smart pro so he understands that [with] two of our top-six out of the lineup we’re going to need offence from all different lines and he picks up on that.”
Lowry has been the model for physicality on the Jets this season. He’s currently second on the team with 183 hits, just four shy of Byfuglien for the team lead. He’s not afraid to play in the corners and rarely will you find him out of position.
And at 6-foot-5, 207 pounds, he’s exactly what the Jets need to compete in the west.
“We want to play fast, we want to play physical and I think using my size to my advantage is something I’ll have to continue to do,” said Lowry.
“I just try to continue to get better. I wanted to make sure I stuck around for the entire year so if I wasn’t contributing offensively it was important that I was finding ways to contribute in other areas.”
Hutch answers call
It was also the kind of game Jets fans wanted to see from their rookie goalie.
The game could have easily gone the other way had it not been for the stellar play of Hutchinson. The 24-year-old netminder made a number of big saves in close and from afar, stopping breakaways and point-blank one-timers along the way, finishing the game with 26 saves to improve to 18-7-4 on the year.
For weeks, Maurice has hinted at the idea of riding one goalie down the final stretch, but neither Hutchinson nor Ondrej Pavelec has answered the call.
That is, until now.
Asked if he felt up to the challenge, Hutchinson just smiled, unwilling to create friction by declaring his hunger to be the No.1.
“As a goalie you always want to play more games and you want to do everything you can to help the team win games,” he said, adding, “and right now, going down the (final) stretch, the only thing that matters is getting the team into the playoffs.
“Whether it’s myself or Pavs playing, as long as we can win games and get the team in to the playoffs, that’s the only thing that matters right now.”