Don’t look now but the Winnipeg Jets have won four consecutive games.
Their 4-2 triumph over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday featured the type of things teams need to do in order to continue to show growth.
The Hurricanes were supposedly feeling confident going into Friday, fresh off a 5-3 win on Wednesday over the Edmonton Oilers that was the first under new head coach Kirk Muller.
The Jets never gave them a chance.
Dustin Byfuglien snuck in from the right point, jumped on a loose puck behind the goal-line and banked it in off the back of Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward’s right leg, just 34 seconds into the contest sending the hometown crowd into a frenzy.
After scoring early, the Jets never looked back, cruising to a 4-2 victory that saw the Hurricanes make a push in the third period before the Jets restored order.
It was a joyous mood in the Jets’ locker room afterward and one of the topics was Byfuglien’s sixth goal of the campaign.
“I think his chances are higher from behind the net as they are from the blue-line right now — he seems to be able to put it in from behind the goal-line, so good for him,” quipped Jets winger Evander Kane, whose team-leading 15th came at 5:04 of the first period and made it 2-0. “We didn’t want to have a letdown coming off that Boston win. We wanted to come out and show we can be consistent. We wanted to play at the pace we play at normally and doing that, we give ourselves a chance to win and make other teams try to keep up with us. That was definitely important.”
Even Jets head coach Claude Noel had some fun with the Byfuglien marker.
“Byfuglien’s goal was just a sharp, intelligent play on his part — it happened to be at the start of the game,” said Noel. “That was a good goal. You might be asking what he was doing behind the (Hurricanes) net, but that’s okay. That’s how he plays sometimes. It’s defending both nets.”
The importance of getting the lamplighter so early wasn’t lost on the Jets.
“Scoring on the first shift is huge,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler, who had three assists. “To get on top of this team, sort of get the momentum going our way, get the crowd into it. All of those good things you want to do at home.”
“We really took it to them in the first period,” added Kane.
Jets backup Chris Mason did a nice job in goal and couldn’t be faulted on either goal against as the first deflected off Jets D-man Johnny Oduya and the second came on a nifty redirection by Brandon Sutter during a Hurricanes power play.
Playing just his sixth game and making his fourth start, Mason finished with 23 saves and earned his third win against the Hurricanes this season.
“The turning point of the game was Mason, he made the breakaway save at 2-0 (on Anthony Stewart) and then he stopped another one in the second on a partial breakaway (Patrick Dwyer), those were big saves that really helped us,” said Noel. “He played a strong, clean game. You can see why I like him. His will to compete is good and it’s infectious.”
“It doesn’t surprise any of us,” said Jets forward Tim Stapleton, who produced the game-winner with a booming slapper from the high slot during a 4-on-3 power play at 10:16 of the second period. “We’re very comfortable with (Mason) coming in.”
And why wouldn’t they be as Mason has done exactly what a backup goalie is supposed to do, making a bid for more starts in the near future during this busy month.
The Jets, now 6-2-1 within the Southeast Division, don’t have much time to soak in the win as they’ll face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
“We know what they’re capable of,” said Stapleton. “We’re going to have to keep it very simple because any mistakes we make, we know they can capitalize on them.”
“Detroit has been a good hockey team for the last 10 years, they’re a good puck possession team so we’re going to have to bring our best game,” added Kane.
Since enduring a five game losing streak (0-3-2), the Jets have now gone 8-2-1 to move their way up the Eastern Conference ladder.
That begged the question, is this a good time to be going to Joe Louis Arena for their lone meeting of the season?
“I tell you, Detroit is a very good team, they’re well-coached and well-managed,” added Noel. “They’ve got an emotional level we’re going to learn about tomorrow. The other thing they have that’s really impressive is how good they are as 1-on-1 players, they are strong. Guys like Datsyuk and just go down the list. If we get stuck, it’s going to be tough.
“But we’re going to be ready to go. This is a good time for us to go in there. We’ve got some travel, but that’s no excuse. We’re going to be ready to go. It’s going to be a big measuring stick.”
Be sure to follow @PentonKirk on Saturday for the Red Wings game, as I’ll be checking back on Tuesday for the home game against the Minnesota Wild.