The Winnipeg Jets had lost five straight games until Saturday. Then, inexplicably, they might have played one of their best games of the year. Or, at least, had their best 40-minute stretch of the year.
After falling behind 1-0 after the first period, the Jets played an almost perfect second period, put up goals and drilled the visiting Philadelphia Flyers 4-1. However, Alex Ovechkin fired a hat-trick to lead the Washington Capitals to a 4-3 win in Sunrise over the Florida Panthers. As a result, the Capitals remain in first place in the Southeast Division with a record of 19-17-2 while the Jets remain in second place in the Southeast and ninth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 19-19-2.
“We got off to a good start, but something happened to that other team after the first period,” said a disappointed Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. “It was our fault. We weren’t good enough in the second period, but give that team (the Jets) credit. They played great hockey over the final 40 minutes.”
After Ruslan Fedotenko gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead on a floater at 11:07 of the first period, the Jets came out in the second period as if they were a different club. In fact, Winnipeg was outshot 13-4 in the first period and not only came back and outshot Philly 12-5 in the second but also scored four unanswered goals. Grant Clitsome scored a beautiful goal at 12:38, Kyle Wellwood scored 30 seconds later at 13:08, Evander Kane scored at 14:44 and Bryan Little tallied the fourth and final goal at 19:06.
The Jets were outstanding in that second period and the crowd let them know it. As soon as Clitsome scored the crowd was energized and it didn’t stop screaming until the players saluted them after the final buzzer. In fact, the raucous home crowd gave the Jets a standing ovation for the final 45 seconds.
“We stunk,” said the Flyers Wayne Simmonds to the Canadian Press. “Our effort definitely wasn’t good enough.
“I just think we shut it down for the second period. It wasn’t the defense. It wasn’t the goaltending. I don’t really think you can point fingers. It was everybody, so can’t really pick one part. It was every single player.”
Kane finished the game with a goal and an assist while Little also had a goal and an assist and Blake Wheeler had a pair of assists. Newcomer Mike Santorelli had his second assist as a Jet.
The Flyers outshot the Jets 31-25 but Ondrej Pavelec was rock solid throughout. Both teams were 0-for-three on the power play.
With the win, the Jets put a halt their five-game losing streak while the Flyers four-game winning streak also came to an end.
“I thought we played a strong game,” Jets coach Claude Noel said in the post-game news conference. “I thought our team game was way better. That’s one of the things that we’ve been talking about for awhile.
“We’ve made it difficult on ourselves and we do know that. We’ve got to win games. We can’t do anything about (the recent slump) what’s already happened.”
The Jets play Game 2 of this six-game homestand on Tuesday night when the struggling Buffalo Sabres come to town. game time is 7 p.m. on TSN Jets TV.