Andrew Ladd didn’t wait to get this one rolling. In fact, Ladd scored the game’s first goal just eight seconds after the opening faceoff.
And that goal by the Jets captain at the eight second mark of the game — right off the opening face-off, tying the franchise record for the fastest goal from the start of the game — and a second one at 11:59 of the third period after a brilliant rush by Dustin Byfuglien was all the Jets needed as Winnipeg beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1 at MTS Centre on Thursday night.
Blake Wheeler added an empty net goal and the Jets got some terrific goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec as Winnipeg won its third straight game and put a stop to a four-game home losing streak. Evander Kane had his eight-game points streak stopped, but it’s not like he didn’t have any chances. Ladd finished with two goals and an assist.
Ladd, meanwhile, finished February with 10 goals in 13 games. He and his linemates, Brian Little and Blake Wheeler, have been outstanding in the past month and when they’re at their best, there is no better single line in the NHL.
“I think that right now our team is certainly driven by him,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel in the post-game news conference. “He leads by example. He has won two [Stanley] Cups, and you can see why.”
Pavelec, meanwhile, made some sensational stops, none more impressive than his saves on Patrik Elias and Bobby Butler from close-range. Pavelec is now the franchise’s most-used goalie. He played his 205th game against the Devils, most in the Thrashers-Jets history and stopped 22 shots to record the win. Winnipeg is now above .500 for the first time in a month.
“I think Ondrej is in a good groove,” said Noel. “I’m really happy with how he is playing.”
Winnipeg’s own Travis Zajac of the Devils, was held without a point. Zajac, who played in front of his parents and family in his hometown for the first time in his NHL career.
Andrei Loktionov scored New Jersey’s only goal while former Manitoba Moose netminder, Johan Hedberg, made his third consecutive start in place of injured Martin Brodeur. He made only 18 saves, but the Devils lost their third straight.
It was a tough loss for the Devils who outplayed Winnipeg after that crazy first goal was scored eight seconds after the opening faceoff. The Jets, who have not been good at home this season despite their loud, proud fans, escaped with a huge win — due in no small way to Ladd’s efforts and Pavelec’s goaltending.
Earlier in the day, the Jets sent out a release to say that defenceman Zach Redmond had been released from a Raleigh-area hospital and has returned home to Traverse City, Mich. to begin the rehabilitation process.
The 10-9-1 Jets are tied with Carolina atop the Southeast Division, but officially ninth in the Eastern Conference. The red-hot Jets, who have won five of their last six, will play again on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at home against Washington and then head back out on the road for four more games.
(All photographs by Shawn Coates)