Even when the scariest thing on Halloween was their penalty-killing unit, the Winnipeg Jets exorcised their early-season road demons once again and got exactly what they deserved on Monday night: A 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers in Sunrise.
It wasn’t easy, but with Jets 2.0, nothing ever is.
Winnipeg took a 2-0 lead before the 10-minute mark of the first period on goals by Kyle Wellwood (Could Winnipeg actually be a real home for Wellwood?) and Evander Kane and still fell behind 3-2 late in the third thanks to a penalty-kill that really might kill head coach Claude Noel before the season ends. Although he usually looks like a deer caught in the headlights (that doesn’t mean he’s bad at his job, he just looks that way), when his team is a man short, he looks like a coronary embolism waiting to burst.
Thankfully for Noel and his heart-health, the Jets answered Tomas Fleischmann’s third period power-play goal (scored at 17:50) with a little magic of their own. Evander Kane batted a rebound out of the air past Jose Theodore to tie things up at 3-3 with 50 seconds left. Of course, the referees had to check with Toronto before deciding that Kane’s tying goal was an actual goal but then again, nothing is ever easy with this bunch.
After an overtime period that was saved by netminder Ondrej Pavelec, the Jets won the shootout on goals by Wellwood and Andrew Ladd to record a win for the fourth time this season. The Jets were outshot 42-31, but Pavelec was outstanding once again. That’s two straight monster performances after last Thursday’s 9-8 debacle. Nice bounce back.
On the upside, the Jets did outhit the Panthers 38-15 and even though the building was virtually empty – there are more people in your corner Tim Horton’s this morning than there was in that barn on the edge of the Everglades last night – the Jets still outhit the home team. That’s not normal, but it’s a great sign.
The fact both Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd (Andrew Ladd?) wanted to bust up Jack Skille for a nasty hit (although on replay it looked like a pretty honest check) on Toby Enstrom, suggested the Jets might have been 3-6-1, but they still gave a rat’s butt.
On the downside, Enstrom suffered an upper-body injury (gawd, I love that upper and lower body baloney), but he will likely play Thursday on Long Island.
Here are three quick observations from Monday night:
1) The Jets led off the shootout with Tim Stapleton. He must win all the shootouts at practice because he has eight goals in 62 career NHL games and zero goals in seven games this season. So while Alexander Burmistrov, Nik Antropov and big Buff – who had 20 goals last year – sit and watch, Tim Stapleton takes the first shot in the shootout. He failed to score, of course. Huh?
2) Tim Stapleton was on the power play unit in the second period while a well-rested Evander Kane, who finished with two goals, sat and watched. Huh?
3) The Jets played penalty-kill hockey for the final three minutes of the first period. Which would be fine, except they were at even strength. They barely even challenged the puck for fear of coming out of their five-corner box (pentagon?) Eventually, Jason Garrison scored for Florida to make it 2-1. Huh?
The 4-6-1 Jets play again Thursday against the Islanders, Saturday in New Jersey, Sunday in New York and on Nov. 8 in Buffalo to round out this seven-game road trip.
As of Tuesday morning, it was a team that appeared to be outplaying its coach. Either Claude Noel is simply a successful hunch-player or he actually IS the deer caught in those big, bright NHL headlights?