Andrew Ladd has switched to an Easton RS Stealth, a lightweight composite stick that has a little extra torque on his wrist shot. It might be the reason the Jets make the playoffs.
Tuesday night in front of 15,004 of the faithful at MTS Centre, Ladd had two goals and an assist in regulation and then scored the winner in the shootout as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3. It was Winnipeg’s fourth straight win.
However, this one shouldn’t have reached the shootout, however. The Jets took a 3-1 lead into the third period but gave up goals to Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Steven Stamkos and found themselves in an overtime battle with a team that had no right to be on the same ice surface as the Jets.
Winnipeg outshot Tampa 36-27, outhit them 34-31 and outchanced them 18-7. Still, the Lightning hung in there and scored two unanswered in the third to tie it. The Jets have only one line that can score consistently and if it wasn’t for the trio of Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little, the Jets might not have reached the shootout.
“Yeah, we played a pretty good game,” said Wheeler, who had Winnipeg’s second goal of the night. “They (Tampa) capitalized on a couple of opportunities in the third period and we couldn’t answer. Going to to the shootout with these guys wasn’t the best recipe for us, but Ondrej is a great goaltender in the shootouts and Ladd did a great job to score that big goal.
“These guys (Tampa) have a lot of firepower,” said Wheeler. “When you play against world class players like Stamkos and St. Louis, you have to get the puck out of your end or they can score quickly. But we did that. We were able to move the puck pretty well tonight.”
Wheeler was awestruck by the game Ladd produced.
“He’s been our leader and he’s really elevating his game,” said Wheeler. “I don’t score that second goal of the game without the work the captain did. When you get to play with a guy like that, you can do a lot of things. Our line was able to do a lot of things tonight.”
Ladd opened the scoring at 1:23 of the first period, but Martin St. Louis tied it at 1-1 late in the first period. Wheeler and Ladd scored unanswered goals in the second to give the Jets a 3-1 lead, then Labrie, a former Manitoba Moose leftwinger, and Stamkos tied it in the third. It was Stamkos’s 27th goal of the season. He’s now second to Alex Ovechkin in the NHL goal-scoring race. Ovechkin has 28.
With the win, the Jets improved to 22-19-2, tied with the New York Rangers in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, the 21-17-4 Rangers have one game in hand. The New York Islanders beat Florida 5-2 to improve to 22-16-5 and remain in seventh place in the East. The surprising Ottawa Senators beat Carolina 3-2 to improve to 22-14-6 and remain in sixth in the East.
Washington, meanwhile, whipped Toronto 5-1 to move to 24-17-2 with their eighth straight win. The Capitals have 50 points, four more than the Jets in the race for first in the Southeast Division.
The Jets play again on Thursday night when the Carolina Hurricanes come to Winnipeg for the fifth game of this big six-game homestand. Game time is 7 p.m. on TSN Jets TV.