The Winnipeg Jets combined great goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and another solid night of physical hockey to win a huge four-point game over the visiting New York Rangers.
Nik Antropov scored his second goal in as many nights in the first period, Antti Miettinen scored the eventual winner in the second period, Andrew Ladd scored into the empty net and Pavelec not only stopped New York’s gifted Marian Gaborik on a penalty shot, he also made 26 saves to get the win as the Jets beat the Rangers 3-1 in front of another loud, proud crowd at MTS Centre.
“It’s a good win, it was a good game for us,” said Miettinen. “We played consistently against Toronto for 60 minutes and we made that a test for us. We wanted to do that again tonight. We played very well and we were able to keep the pressure on them and win the game. We’re learning to bend a little but not break. It’s just two games. We have to focus tomorrow in practice and then it’s off to Toronto on Saturday for just another game.”
Miettinen, who was discovered playing senior amateur hockey in Finland by former Winnipegger Tom Thompson, the old assistant general manager of the Minnesota Wild, was asked to describe his winning goal.
“My winner? it was a beautiful goal. It went off my shoulder,” he said laughing. “I was able to sneak behind the D and position myself pretty well to deflect the shot.”
With the win, the Jets picked up their ninth out of a possible 10 points in the past five games. They also improved to 14-11-2 on the season and moved past the Rangers into eighth place all by themselves in the Eastern Conference. With Carolina’s 3-2 loss to Washington last night, the Jets also pulled to within one point of the first-place Hurricanes in the Southwest Division. It was Winnipeg’s second straight win and their fourth in five games as the Jets have gone 4-0-1 in that stretch.
Meanwhile, with Tampa’s loss, the Jets pulled a full seven points ahead of the third-place Lightning in the Southeast.
Pavelec was the game’s first star while the always exciting Dustin Byfuglien, who had two more assists, was the game’s second star. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves and was the game’s third star. Pavelec is undefeated in regulation time in his last four games.
“Pavelec has been really solid,” Miettinen said of the Jets red-hot goaltender. “Our D has been really strong, too. But Pavelec has been really solid and it’s great to play in front of him. He’s done a great job on the penalty kill, too. He’s giving us a lot of confidence.”
The Jets outplayed the visiting Rangers from start to finish in this one. They outshot New York 33-29 and out-chanced the Rangers 14-9. The Jets went one-for-two on the power play while the Rangers were 0-for-one. Ryan Callahan scored New York’s only goal.
From the opening faceoff, the Jets out-hit the Rangers (46-33) and Nik Antropov had three huge hits, five in total, after spending most of the 2013 season watching games from the periphery. Alexander Burmistrov was benched for the second straight game and perhaps Antropov has noticed. Antropov now has six points in the last four games.
The Jets answered a lot of questions on Thursday night. They played with the same intensity against New York as they did during their 5-2 win over Toronto on Tuesday night.
“Write this down: ‘We’ve scored a power play goal in each of the last two games and we’ve won the special teams battle both nights,’ ” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “There were a lot of good things tonight. Our players are giving us a lot right now. Our guys played real responsible hockey. We had a lot of good games from a lot of people and that’s what we need.”
The Jets now head out onto the road for a pair of games. They’re in Toronto on Saturday night at 6 p.m. on CBC and then they play in Ottawa on Sunday at 4 p.m. on TSN Jets TV.
REALIGNMENT IS APPROVED
Good news for the NHL yesterday: realignment has been approved. The NHL’s Board of Governors approved the new two-conference, four-division plan that will go into effect next season.
Right now, Winnipeg will play in Division B – and yes that name will likely change – with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis. The Stanley Cup Playoffs will still consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it will be division-based and a wild-card system has been added.
perhaps best of all, the new alignment ensures that all 30 teams will play in all 30 arenas at least once each season for the first time since 1997-98.
(All photos by Shawn Coates)