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Jets Beat Hawks 3-1, Improve to 6-1 Under Maurice

For the first two periods in Chicago on Sunday night, the Winnipeg Jets were done. They were outskated, outhustled, outworked and completely outplayed. But they didn’t quit.

Trouble is, Chicago led by a mere 1-0 after the first period even though the Hawks had outshot the Jets 18-2. And the Hawks led only 1-0 after two periods even though they’d outshot the Jets 27-6. For the Hawks, this was stressful. You can’t let any National Hockey League team just hang around for two periods after you’ve whipped ’em every which way but loose. You know disaster is just one shot away.

Al Montoya was sensational.

Al Montoya was sensational.

For the Hawks, it was the Jets Blake Wheeler who took that first shot. Then Andrew Ladd took another one. Suddenly it was 2-1 Winnipeg and even though the Hawks were solid, they weren’t good enough to win. Al Montoya was spectacular for two periods, Wheeler stuffed one into the empty net and the Jets had a 3-1 victory — with three shocking unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes.

It was the Jets second straight win, but this time is was against a team that had outscored them 13-5 in three previous meetings this season.

Sunday night, the Jets played like a team that finally understood how much fun playing two games in two nights can be. Ask any young hockey player, playing a game is a lot more fun than practising. Good coaches with good teams love to play the second game of a back-to-back and after all those ugly second games the Jets played under Claude Noel, they finally played a very sound one under Paul Maurice on Sunday — granted they started slowly, but they kept playing, kept working, got solid goaltending, didn’t quit and suddenly they’d improved to 25-24-5 and were right back in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.

Montoya shuts down Jonathan Toews.

Montoya shuts down Jonathan Toews.

Sure, they were outshot 35-20, but Montoya was wonderful and, for those who aren’t quite sure, he’s the goalie and he’s part of the team. Chicago should have been ahead 6-0 after two periods, but they weren’t and Montoya should get all the praise for being the game’s first star.

And to the Jets credit, they didn’t fold up the tent. They came out in the third period, took advantage of their chances and won a game they shouldn’t have won. But remember, many times this season, they lost some games they shouldn’t have lost. Maybe it’s all going to even out.

Of course, it will even out if they continue to do the things they’ve been doing under Maurice. They now play with confidence, heart, guts and a no-quit approach. A hockey team can go a long way with that as its credo.

Andrew Ladd scores the winner.

Andrew Ladd scores the winner.

The Jets are now seven points back of Minnesota in the race for eighth spot in the West. There are 28 games left to play. Granted, the Jets have gone 6-1 under Maurice and, yeah, I get it. You don’t judge a coaching change after seven games. You judge it after 30.

However, you must admit the last seven games have been fun. Hiring Paul Maurice might not be the change that makes the Jets a Stanley Cup contender, but any Jets fan who doesn’t ride this wave with a smile on his face isn’t a real fan.

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