It’s a good thing I waited until the end of the game to start writing my game analysis story on Tuesday, because about midway through the third period the narrative took a sharp U-turn for the Winnipeg Jets and would have required some major revisions.
After a feeling-out, back-and-forth opening period that saw the Jets and Boston Bruins play things close to the vest but saw both teams come up with glorious chances (think Blake Wheeler blowing past Dennis Seidenberg and clanging a shot off the iron or Patrice Bergeron getting robbed on a rebound after a blast from the point by Zdeno Chara), the tide turned in the second period.
“Obviously it didn’t open the way we’d have liked,” said Noel. “We started trying to do too much and got wrapped in some negative emotions, and created our own problems, our own issues. Whether you’re looking at turnovers, or whatever. There was a lot of different things going on in the second period that we didn’t like a lot of.We were going in the wrong direction. It says a lot about our team. That’s not an easy team to beat. It speaks volumes about our team. They force you to keep your head level… and we didn’t do that in the second.”
This time it wasn’t a late-period goal that bumped the Jets off their game, but rather an early one as Brad Marchand took advantage of a Zach Bogosian turnover and broke the scoreless deadlock just eight seconds into the second.
Bogosian was trying to get the puck over to partner Ron Hainsey but it took a funny bounce off the end boards and allowed Marchand to walk in alone before beating a surprised Onrej Pavelec.
The Bruins spent most of the rest of the period frustrating the Jets and limiting their offensive opportunities. Only a brilliant period from goalie Pavelec prevented this one from getting away from the Jets.
“Obviously, it’s nice to see some results there. It was a tough game,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “They’re a very patient team, they dont give you much. And they wait for you to start trying to do too much. That’s basically what we did for two periods. We kind of played into their hands.
“We came in after the second and reset and had a great third.”
During the third, the Jets got a power play goal from Blake Wheeler to even the score on a beautiful tip-in after a shot from Bogosian from the right point.
Ladd was the guy providing the screen and as he was tied up with Bruins D-man Andrew Ference, Wheeler moved to the front of the net and used his stick to deftly redirect the puck up and over the glove of Tuukka Rask.
“It was big for our power play to get a goal, obviously it’s something that hasn’t been clicking as well as we want it to,” said Ladd. “In these tight games, it’s such an important tool, for us to be able to go out there, tie it up and give ourselves a chance to win.”
The goal snapped a streak of 27 consecutive kills for the Bruins, who lead the NHL in penalty killing percentage and had only allowed one power play goal on the road this season.
Just 57 seconds later, Rask had trouble handling a shot from the left point by Grant Clitsome and as the puck laid loose in the crease, Evander Kane pounced on it for his 12th of the season — and team-leading fourth game-winner.
Only 16 seconds after the Jets took the lead, the Bruins went back to the power play, but the Jets were able to kill off a fourth consecutive one in the game.
With 6.8 seconds left, Ladd unselfishly dished the puck over to Wheeler for an empty-net goal that rounded out the scoring and gave Wheeler 14 on the season, which leaves him tied with the captain for the team lead.
Pavelec was excellent once again and when pressed about when his starting goalie might need to take another breather, Noel acknowledged it would have to come soon but wouldn’t commit for it to be this week.
Once Al Montoya is fully healthy, he’ll give Pavelec a rest.
With the win, the Jets (16-12-2) moved back past the Carolina Hurricanes by two points in the chase for top spot in the Southeast Division and the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
It’s a busy week for the Jets, who have consecutive games with the Washington Capitals on Thursday and Friday and then host the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday to cap the four-game homestand.
Noel wasn’t willing to take the long-term view when asked what beating the Bruins (to avoid a season series sweep) under the circumstances meant in the big picture.
“But there’s no easy games. Just because we beat Boston doesn’t mean we’re going to play Washington back-to-back and that’ll be a lesser game,” said Noel. “That’ll be just as difficult as this one. It’s such a fine line in the NHL between winning and losing, it’s scary.”
That much is true but for another night, the Jets found a way to get the job done, pulling together against a Bruins team that is awfully tough to beat.
“These guys are tough to play against. They have a recipe for success on the road,” said Wheeler. “They make it extremely boring and extremely tough to play against them. There’s a reason why they’re at the top of the league every year and won a Stanley Cup a couple years ago.
“They were playing their road game to a tee. They want to frustrate you. That’s when they put it down your throat and make it 2-0, 3-0. It wasn’t pretty. But they seldom are when you’re playing really good teams.”
A few other nuggets that emerged from the game:
* Jets LW Eric Tangradi hit Adam McQuaid in the first period and the Bruins D went awkwardly into the boards and seemed to be favouring his left shoulder. McQuaid left the game and didn’t return. If the injury is serious, the Bruins have Aaron Johnson as an extra D but Peter Chiarelli might have to step up the search to add another player to the defence corps for the stretch drive.
* Jets C Alex Burmistrov showed some flashes as he returned to the lineup after four consecutive healthy scratches. Burmistrov had 12 shifts for 10:06 of ice time, playing nearly two minutes on the penalty kill and the rest of the time at even strength.
* The plan to play more of a four-line game didn’t really transpire outside of Burmistrov, as Tangradi had seven shifts for 5:51 (three hits, one shot on goal) and Chris Thorburn had seven shifts for 4:48 (two shots that came on same shift and three shifts).
* It was a tough game for the pairing of Dustin Byfuglien and Grant Clitsome. Although each guy had an assist, Byfuglien turned over the puck at least three times (officially but the number could have been higher) and Clitsome actually took two minors in the third period that made things challenging for the penalty killers.
* Bogosian has been excellent but he fought the puck a bit in this one as well, finishing with a game-high four turnovers. But he played nearly 24 minutes and saw a lot of time against Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand, which is a tough assignment for anyone.
* Thought the pairing of Mark Stuart and Winnipegger Derek Meech was solid. Meech had 13 shifts for 10:06 and finished with two shots on goal, four hits and a blocked shot, turning the puck over once. Meech seems to be getting more comfortable each game and is playing with a lot of confidence, showcasing his mobility and smart decision-making.
The Jets will hold an optional practice on Wednesday, but I’m taking the day off and leaving that in the capable hands of columnist Paul Friesen.
I’ll check back in Thursday morning after the morning skate.