Jets wake up in unfamiliar territory

- March 17th, 2013

TORONTO — This was a game that was suited for prime time on a Saturday night, provided you were a fan or someone just watching the game.

If you were Claude Noel or Randy Carlyle though, it was the type of contest that will keep you up at night.

This tilt featured several wild swings of momentum and emotion.

Regulation time settled nothing and neither did five minutes of 4-on-4 action.

“It was a good game for Hockey Night in Canada, a good game for the station,” said Noel. “It was a good game from that standpoint. It was a little bit too exciting for our liking. But we were happy we got the win. The shootout was a little bit nerve-wracking. We did a lot of good things in the second.”

That left it to be decided in a shootout.

Naturally, Blake Wheeler and Tyler Bozak traded goals through the five-hole during the regular portion (three shooters each) of the penalty-shot contest, with Bryan Little and Nazem Kadri finding iron.

The Maple Leafs hit two more posts during the shootout, which made its way to round 10 and the 20th shooter before Zach Bogosian finally ended things, beating Morweena product James Reimer to the glove side.

“That was a fun game to be a part of,” said Bogosian. “To end it like that was pretty cool. There were a lot of other guys on the ice that did a lot of good things tonight too.”

Noel used humour when asked at how he arrived at Bogosian in the 10th round instead of a forward or someone else?

“Once a stallion, always a stallion. You know how he is,” said Noel. “I don’t know. He was looking at me like he wants to go. I was just trying to find people. He gave me the look.”

Naturally, I asked Bogosian about his last shootout attempt.

“In my first year, we were in Phoenix and I think I was the 18th guy to go,” he said. “I skated all the way in with my head down and buried it in his pads. That (attempt) was a little better than my first one.”

Ondrej Pavelec isn’t a real big fan of the shootout, but this was the best showing from him that I’ve seen, as he turned aside nine of 10 shooters.

Pavelec chuckled when I asked about the length of the shootout.

“It’s not fun at all — I would like to play 20 minutes of overtime instead of the shootout,” said Pavelec. “But it’s part of the game. I just tried to be patient. They hit the post three times there, so I was lucky. But I knew if I was going to be patient and make some saves that one of our guys was going to score. It’s a good win.”

Give Pavelec points for honesty.

Sure, there were some things the Jets won’t be happy about in this one and topping the list will be the fact the blew a 4-1 cushion and allowed the Maple Leafs to tie the contest and earn a point in what could have been a clean game.

After falling behind 1:32 into the opening period when Joffrey Lupul turned a Kyle Wellwood turnover into a goal, the Jets picked things up and absolutely dominated the second period for 18:30, taking over the lead after goals by James Wright (his first as a Jet and first since Nov. of 2009), Antti Miettinen (batting the puck out of the air) and a pair from Blake Wheeler (who now has 12 on the season).

It looked like the Jets were going to cruise to victory, but the Maple Leafs got a clean faceoff win in the offensive zone by Jay McClement (against Bryan Little) and a goal from Nikolai Kulemin to open the door at 18:35. Then with one minute left in the second, Lupul scored his second of the game (in his first game since Jan. 21 when a shot from Dion Phaneuf broke his forearm).

The tide had turned and Phil Kessel went high glove after a fantastic backhand saucer pass from Bozak to even the score at 5:50 of the third and at that point, either team could have come away victorious.

“It seemed a little back and forth,” said Bogosian. “We’ve got to make sure we’re playing with the lead a little better. It seems like we let our foot off the pedal a little bit and they made us pay for it. We have to make sure we’re closing out those periods, especially the last two minutes.”

But ultimately, the Jets found a way to secure the extra point and thanks to a loss by the Carolina Hurricanes, moved into first place in the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 15-11-2.

“We realize the position we’re in and we don’t want that to slip out of our hands,” said Jets winger Evander Kane.

Some other things that stand out:

* Bogosian had an impact a long time before sniping the shootout winner, jumping to the aid of Kane when he was involved with Korbinian Holzer. There’s was a lot of chatter about how nobody stuck up for Kane during a game against the Ottawa Senators last season. That was not the case this time. Bogosian made it clear that the Maple Leafs were not going to push around the Jets’ stars. I’d never seen Bogosian snap like that or be so angry, but he was laughing about it afterward.

“That’s what happens when you fight I guess. I don’t know, you kind of flip a switch there a little bit,” said Bogosian, who landed several big punches, including an upper-cut.

* There were some folks that wondered why Kane wasn’t fighting his own battle, as he and Holzer had been battling basically since the start of the game. The issue that sparked the scrap happened at the end of a long shift and to be perfectly honest (and with all due respect to Holzer, that’s not a good trade-off for the Jets.

“We were just battling down low and the next thing you know he dropped his gloves,” said Kane. “I saw the referee’s hand go up, so I thought I would take the power play. But then (Bogosian) came in and finished him off pretty good.”

On the way to the penalty box, Holzer had some words for Kane, which I asked him about.

Although I used the quote in my game story, it was too good not to mention here.

“I couldn’t understand what he was saying, he had some marbles in his mouth,” said Kane.

* Losing Bogosian for 17 minutes wasn’t a much better trade-off, but there was a strong message sent and he provided plenty of energy after returning to action in the second period.

* As for the rest of the defence, there were some challenges with Bogosian’s absence. Dustin Byfuglien played 11:14 in the first period and more than seven in the second, but seemed to be tiring in the third. Byfuglien also provided the screen on Lupul’s first goal.

* Grant Clitsome turned the puck over on Lupul’s second goal but for the most part, the Jets did a good job while playing without Bogosian.

* The penalty kill was 2-for-2 and is now 28-for-28 during the past 11 games, closing in on 80% efficiency after being in the low 60s at one point. The Jets had to kill one of their minors with Bogosian and Ron Hainsey (the No. 1 D-pairing on the PK and shutdown tandem).

* Nik Antropov picked up an assist and now has seven points during his past four games. Kyle Wellwood added a helper to give him three assists during his past three games. Secondary scoring has been huge for the Jets of late (goals from Wright and Miettinen were the latest installment).

The Jets needed at least a split on this swing and if they can match the effort on Sunday against the Senators, they’ve put themselves in a position where a sweep might be possible, provided they avoid the lapses that killed them on Saturday.

There’s no time to bask in the glory and it will be interesting to see if Noel sticks with the same lineup or perhaps chooses to inject some fresh legs in the form of Alex Burmistrov (three consecutive healthy scratches) or Paul Postma (four consecutive healthy scratches).

The Senators earned a hard-fought win on Saturday afternoon, defeating the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in overtime on a goal from Kyle Turris and despite dealing with injuries to key cogs like Craig Anderson, Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, the Senators are currently in fifth place in the East with 34 points (two more than the Jets).

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