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Jets Win Third Straight With OT Thriller

There are nights when hockey can be the craziest of games. Case in point: Sunday night at MTS Centre. Leading 2-1 after two periods, the Winnipeg Jets had outplayed the New York Islanders and appeared to be on the road to improving to 3-1-1 to start the lockout shortened 2013 season. Then, virtually without any warning at all, the Islanders scored three unanswered goals to take a 4-2 lead with barely eight minutes to play.

Of course, just as quickly as the Jets fell behind, they evened the score as Dustin Byfuglien scored a power play goal at 12:59 of the third period and then Alexander Burmistrov tallied at 14:04 to tie it.

That goal sent it to overtime where Evander Kane banged home a rebound and the Jets had their third straight win.

Al Montoya gets his first start and first win for the Jets

Al Montoya gets his first start and first win for the Jets

It was almost a completely different game than the end-to-end, highly skilled game on Friday night when the Jets beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2. This game was tight checking and often sloppy and it’s outcome was the result of a big mistake.

Nonetheless, when the 15,000 fans inside the MTS Centre woke up in the third period, the Jets responded with a flourish.

“We’ve been doing that recently, falling behind and then having to come back to win,” said Byfuglien after the game. “We don’t want to do it. It’s not part of the plan, but it does say a lot about the guys and the maturity of this team. A couple of years we might not have been able to do this. We’re working together better sticking to the plan and we’re becoming successful.”

Brian Little scores the Jets second goal

Brian Little scores the Jets second goal

The winning goal in overtime was the result of a boneheaded play by the Islanders Keith Aucoin.

Aucoin led a 3-on-1 into the Jets zone and waited and waited and waited too long. By the time he decided to do something with the puck, Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey got back into the play, stole the puck and quickly made a pass up the left side to Olli Jokinen.

Jokinen was allowed to walk in, unabated, on Islanders netminder Evgeni Nabokov and while Nabokov made the initial save, there was nobody back to check to Kane who banged in the rebound to give the Jets the win.

Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel was pleased with the victory, but not thrilled with the way his team reached its goal.

“It wasn’t a Picasso,” quipped Noel in the post-game news gathering session. “I was happy to see that we continued to battle even though we got down by a couple in the third. Obviously, the goal by Byfuglien was a big one. The play by (Alexander) Burmistrov was good, and we kept plowing through. I would hate to have to do this every night, but on a night like this, you have to give everyone a lot of credit for hanging in there.”

David Ullstrom opened the scoring for the Islanders at 2:34 of the first but the Jets bounced back with a goal by Alexei Ponikarovsky, his first as a Jet, at 10:15. Then, in the second period, Brian Little scored his first of the year at 5:13 and the Jets had a 2-1 lead.

Evander Kane bangs home the rebound in overtime to win it for the Jets

Evander Kane bangs home the rebound in overtime to win it for the Jets

But John Tavares, who finished with a goal and an assist and was the best player on the ice, scored his first of the year at 0:22 of the third while Matt Moulson tallied at 5:09 and Mark Streit made it 4-2 at 9:53.

But Byfuglien scored on the power play at 12:59 and then Burmistrov tied it up with a brilliant individual effort at 14:04 and the Jets – along with their fans — were on a roll heading into OT.

The Jets not only got the victory, but so so too did No. 2 goaltender Al Montoya who picked up a win in his first start with the Jets. In fact, it was his first NHL win since he beat the Jets last April while playing for the Islanders.

The Jets will head out on the road for a three-game trip to Montreal, Florida, and Tampa Bay. The Fourth Line will be in Florida and Tampa Bay with the Jets this coming Thursday and Friday.

The team will return home for a game against their division-rival, but slumping, Florida Panthers on Feb. 5

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