Another big save by Ondrej Pavelec.
When Bryan Little scored the shootout winner in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, it was more than just a win in the 51st game of a long season. It might have been the most important win of 2012.
For 65 minutes on Tuesday, the Winnipeg Jets went toe-to-toe one more time with the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Centre and for the third time this season the Winnipegs emerged victorious. Chris Thorburn scored his first goal of the year in regulation time; Little fired the only goal of the shootout; Blake Wheeler played 23 minutes, had five shots on goal and was an absolute beast; and Ondrej Pavelec made 27 saves as the Jets beat the Flyers for the third consecutive time.
"That was a big two points for us," Jets head coach Claude Noel told a radio audience after the game. "We were wearing down in the third period, but we found a way to win the game."
It’s true. A Jets team without Dustin Byfuglien, Alexander Burmistov and Evander Kane did wear down in the third period, but they played well enough defensively to hang in long enough and get the bonus point in a shootout. For the first two periods, however, the Jets actually outplayed the Flyers in Philly and they definitely deserved that extra point.
Granted, they still can’t score. The Jets have scored only 21 goals in 13-plus (counting overtime) games in 2012, but if they continue to check as well as they did against the Flyers on Tuesday, they’ll win a lot more games than they lose.
"I thought we chacked real well and played hard tonight," Noel continued. "We were happy with our scoring chances. I was pleased with our overall game. We created chances from a lot of different lines. I liked our chances. And I was happy for Pavelec to get the shootout win. I was happy for all of us to get the win. It could have been real demoralizing if we hadn’t won that game. It was clear to me from behind the bench that we wanted to win the game."
With the victory, the Jets improved to 23-22-6 (8-14-4 on the road) on the season. They are now 4-8-1 in 2012 and thanks to Tuesday’s win they got off to a great post-all-star break start. They have three more games on the road this week — Thursday in Tampa, Friday in Sunrise, Fla., and Sunday in Montreal — before heading home and a win over the Flyers will make the trip a lot more comfortable.
"We played the game with the right attitude," Noel added. "We knew it wasn’t going to be a high scoring game, but I thought the game was played with a lot of speed. If you didn’t have speed tonight you struggled a bit."
Even with the injuries and with two AHL call-ups (Spencer Machacek and Aaron Gagnon) in the lineup, the Jets were the best team on the ice on Tuesday. As a reward, the Jets finally got a bonus point they’d earned.
More importantly, it was a great start to what will be a very difficult two weeks.