How many times will we repeat this in 2012: "The Jets goaltender stood on his head and Winnipeg stole another win at home?"
Thursday night, in front of another insanely loud crowd at MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg, Chris Mason, made 31 saves, many of them outstanding, as the Jets No. 2 goaltender kept the Kings at bay long enough to allow Evander Kane to score an overtime goal and give the home side a 1-0 win — a win they probably didn’t deserve.
This was a gigantic victory for the Jets, their first OT win this season and a win that kept them above that eighth-place line in the Eastern Conference.
The Jets were outplayed from start to finish in regulation time (Mason himself said the Jets were "under siege" during the Kings’ power-plays), but in overtime, in that four-on-four situation, Winnipeg’s speed was the difference. With Kane on the ice — and with plenty of space in the four-on-four — the Jets took control of the play early and Kane was able to pick up a loose puck and bang it past Jonathan Bernier, who had a pretty solid game for the Kings, as well.
With the win, the Jets are now 18-14-5 and with 41 points have moved into seventh place in the East. More importantly, the Jets have done exactly what they had to do in December. They are 9-3-1 this month and with one game left — on New Year’s Eve against Toronto — they have a chance to pick up 21 of a possible 28 points in December and that’s exactly what they had to do with a really tough January and February coming up.
"Games get harder now," said Mason, whose Jets play 15 of their first 21 games in January and February on the road. "We just have to keep doing the right things to keep playing well as the season moves forward."
Thursday night’s game against the Kings was as difficult a game as the Jets have had to deal with allmonth. In fact, it was a perfect Darryl Sutter hockey game. The new head coach of the Kings had his team trapping all over the ice, making it difficult for the Jets to muster any prolonged attacks. Meanwhile, all-star defenseman Drew Doughty, who played more than 25 minutes, controlled the pace of play and after the first period, L.A. didn’t give the Jets very many legitimate scoring chances (perhaps five on 25 shots).
Meanwhile, thanks to Mason, the Jets were able to win their second straight and ninth this month.
"That was a big extra point for our hockey team," said Kane, who has 18 goals in 37 games this season after scoring 19 all of last season in Atlanta. "In the first period we really took it to them and had a numnber of good scoring chances and I thought we were pretty good in the third. It was a tough game and we picked up a big extra point."
For good reason, Kane loved Mason’s performance.
"Chris Mason has been fantastic," he said. "Whenever Pavy (Ondrej Pavelec) needs a rest, Chris comes in and does a great job. We have a lot of confidence in our two goaltenders. That’s one of the strongest parts of our game."
Kane also knew that December was an important month for the Jets.
"We saw that when the schedule came out that in December that we had a chance to make a run this month," Kane said. "We knew we had a lot of home games and we knew we had to make some noise this month. We had to pick up a lot of points with all those games at home. We’ve been able to do that and it puts us in great shape with January coming up."
The Jets have one big game left this month. They can pass Toronto with a win against the Leafs at MTS Centre on Saturday night.
Then, in January, everyone will find out what this team really has in the tank.
(Don’t forget, I’ll be live with the boys on Nation Radio on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. CST on the TEAM 1260 in Edmonton)