Even when a team doesn’t play well, things can work out when that team’s great players play great hockey. Thursday night at MTS Centre, Dustin Byfuglien banged home a rebound in overtime to give the Winnipeg Jets a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes to win their fifth straight game at home.
“I just jumped up and Ladd shot the puck off the pad on purpose,” said Byfuglien, who was outstanding throughout the game. “I was there for the rebound. We’ll enjoy this for the next couple of minutes, it was a huge two points, and then focus on the Islanders on Saturday. We have a lot of work ahead of us still, we just have to keep going.”
For the Jets, it was a tough win. The struggling Hurricanes were plucky and even though they didn’t get many shots on goal, their own goalie, Justin Peters, was rock solid as he kept the ‘Canes in the game long enough for Alexander Semin to score the tying goal with just 1:12 left to play in regulation.
The Jets are now on a five-game winning streak, the longest winning streak of the season. The franchise record of six was set last season.
It was a huge win for the Jets. The New York Islanders got a pair of goals from John Tavares en route to a 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Derick Brassard had two goals as the New York Rangers blasted the Florida Panthers 6-1. And the Ottawa Senators knocked off the Washington Capitals 3-1.
All of that means this:
(1) The Jets improve to 23-19-2 with their fifth straight victory in the fifth game of this six-game homestand. The Jets have 48 points, the same as the Rangers, but they remain officially behind the 22-17-4 Rangers and in ninth place in the East. The Rangers lead the Jets 26-25 in the all-important combined wins-and-overtime-losses category.
(2) With the Caps loss, Washington now leads Winnipeg by two points in the race for first in the Southeast Division. Washington is 24-18-2 while the Jets are 23-19-2 so once again, Washington leads Winnipeg in the wins-and-overtime category 26-25.
(3) With their win, the 23-16-5 Islanders are three points ahead of Winnipeg while 23-16-6 Ottawa now leads the Jets by four points (with one game in hand).
(4) The Jets now have four games remaining. One more game in this homestand — Saturday against the New York Islanders. Then they play Monday in Buffalo, Tuesday in Washington and Thursday in Winnipeg against Montreal to wrap up the season. Starting Saturday, the Jets play four games in six days.
Thursday night, however, the Jets were quite good for two and a half periods before collapsing late. Zach Bogosian opened the scoring at 12:13 of the first period and then Paul Postma scored at 8:27 of the second to give the Jets a 2-0 lead. Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu scored at 10:38 of the second period to make it 2-1 after 40 minutes.
Wheeler made it 3-1 in the third and it looked like the Jets were coasting, but Ruutu made it 3-2 with his second of the night at 12:22 of the third. Then Semin scored at 18:48 to send it to overtime.
Bogosian and Wheeler led the Jets with a goal and an assist while Andrew Ladd had three assists and Bryan Little had two assists. Ladd leads the Jets in scoring with 44 points in 44 games this season.
The Jets outshot Carolina 31-27, 10-3 in a first period that was dominated by Winnipeg. While the Jets big line was huge, some of the Jets had a tough night. Ladd and Wheeler were both plus-three while Little was plus-two, however Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen and Ron Hainsey were all minus-two. Jokinen is now minus-18 on the season, 817th in the NHL.
“Nobody said it was going to be easy,” said Wheeler, who has 10 points in what is now a five-game points streak. “We started off terribly in the third period, but we got a big goal, but they got a big goal and when one goes in, two go in sometimes and that’s what happened to us tonight.
“Buff is one of those rare players in this league who can take over a game and that’s what happened in overtime. He can carry our team.”
The Jets play again on Saturday afternoon against the New York Islanders, 2 p.m. at MTS Centre. If you don’t have a ticket the game can be seen on TSN Jets TV.