WINNIPEG, MB – The Winnipeg Jets were in the midst of a five-game losing skid that cost Claude Noel his job. They had a new coach in Paul Maurice and they knew that they had to do something as even the most loyal and loudest fans in the league were starting to grow tired of the inconsistency they had brought to the ice.
Monday they played what was their best game of the season as they dominated the Phoenix Coyotes 5-1 to give Maurice his first win behind the Jets’ bench.
“They wanted to get out of this,” Maurice said of his new team’s slump. “They wanted to make it better.”
Winnipeg came out of the gate with a lot of energy and pride as they knew they cost a couple of good guys jobs and it was now or never for some who could be on their way out if they don’t get things going as a team.
“It’s nice to get a win and get some excitement back in this room,” Jets captain Andrew Ladd.
Coach Maurice who has coached over 1000 games in the NHL didn’t waste any time as he juggled all the lines and it seemed to work as all four lines were rolling and were playing with confidence that seemed to be lacking.
“They did the one thing that we had talked about,” Maurice said. “When adversity came to the doorstep, that next goal was huge. The bench didn’t get quiet; we stayed positive, and that’s the start of the foundation of handling adversity over the course of the game and sticking with it. It was really, really important that we scored that goal to make it 1-1, so they didn’t back down.”
Winnipeg got goals from Olli Jokinen his 12th, Eric O’Dell his 2nd, Blake Wheeler his 17th, Michael Frolik his 10th , Devin Setoguchi his 8th on the power play.
Phoenix got on the board first as Oliver Ekman-Larsson converted on a power play scramble for his 5th .
As soon as they were down things picked up as the Jets had positive energy on the bench and 34 seconds later they tied things up and never looked back.
This game was a chippy hard hitting affair and fans were treated to a heavy weight tilt between Paul Bissonnette ” Biz Nasty” as he is known and big Anthony Peluso who squared off at center ice and dropped the mitts . Later in the third period Derek Morris of the Coyotes and Jets captain Andrew Ladd also dropped the mitts and landed a couple of heavy punches.
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec got the win and only faced 19 shots , it was the first time all season he faced under 20 shots . He kept all rebounds right in front and his players were able to clear all pucks out.
“I think we responded really well,” Pavelec said. “Everyone was excited. I was a little nervous, that’s for sure. I didn’t know what to expect, but I think the whole team was focused, and everyone did a really good job.”
Coyotes and Canadian Olympic goalie Mike Smith faced 38 shots in the loss.
The Jets finished the game 1-8 on the powerplay but had tons of zone time as well as some new look set ups that seemed to be generating a lot of chances.
Although it was only one game and they still have along way to go this team showed it can be a force when they stick to the system and frustrate other teams with size, skill and speed.
Next up is a Thursday game in Calgary where they hope to do the same.
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