The most successful road trip since the Jets returned to Winnipeg is over. And now, after 19 games this season, the Jets actually look like a playoff contender.
Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York, Olli Jokinen and Evander Kane each scored twice while tough guy Anthony Peluso had a pair of assists as the Jets built a 4-2 lead midway through the third period and then hung on to beat the New York Rangers 4-3.
“It’s a big win for us and we finish the road trip 4-1, so that’s great,” Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec told the Associated Press. “But we have to come home and start to win again at home. We built some confidence here, hopefully, and it wasn’t a situation for us after those losses at home. It was a great road trip for us.”
With the win, the Jets completed the five-game road swing with a record of 4-1-0 and are now 9-9-1 on the season, ninth in the East and virtually tied for first in the Southeast Division.
Pavelec made 29 saves to get the win but Jokinen, the game’s first star, and Kane who finished with three points, were the best players on the ice, although Dustin Byfuglien was a plus-four. Kane now has four goals in his last five games and nine on the season.
Last season the Jets were 14-22-5 away from MTS Centre and it probably cost them, a shot at the playoffs (they missed by eight points). This year, the Jets are 6-4-1 on the road and they’re on a two-game road winning streak after just completing a three-game road winning streak.
“We got off to good starts in getting the first goal in a lot of the games,” Kane told the Associated Press. “We rode close games out in the third period for the most part, so I think it was a good experience for our group to come out and have a positive road trip.”
Before the Jets left on their longest road trip of the season, the Jets had lost three straight at home. Now they head back home on the biggest high of the season and look like a team that can compete with any other team in the NHL.
“It was a good road trip for us, but we’re a .500 hockey team right now,” Jokinen said. “We can’t get too high, we can’t get too low. There’s a new challenge in a couple days.”
The Jets will return home to play Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils at MTS Iceplex. They’ll play Saturday at home against Washington and then head back out on the road for four more games.
NEW NHL REALIGNMENT PLAN
In other news, the National Hockey League’s new realignment plan, being worked on with the NHL Players’ Association, includes four divisions in two conferences with wild-card spots for the playoffs. The plan was laid out in a league memo that was sent to all 30 teams yesterday. If accepted, the Jets would start play next season in the Mid-West Division with Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis.