Jets pull out OT win over Avalanche

- March 20th, 2014

If the Winnipeg Jets were going to go quietly into the night after a crushing loss on Monday night against the St. Louis Blues, they had plenty of opportunities to do so as they faced the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday at MTS Centre.

Matt Duchene found Ryan O’Reilly for a shot that banked in off the skate off Jets centre Bryan Little and slipped between the pads of Al Montoya just 20 seconds into this one.

Twenty seconds was all it took for a team that was playing on back-to-back nights to find some life and a team that was ready to surrender would have folded like a cheap suit.

Instead, the Jets’ shutdown unit scored on its next shift to tie the game at 3:15, as captain Andrew Ladd took a pass from Bryan Little and blasted a shot off the far post and past Reto Berra, who was making his first start for the Avalanche since the trade with the Calgary Flames.

At 12:06 Blake Wheeler made a remarkable pass to Eric Tangradi for a backdoor tap-in. Tangradi has been hard-pressed to stay in the lineup and seen limited ice time in most of his games under head coach Paul Maurice but he got the tap on the shoulder when Dustin Byfuglien was unable to play because of a lingering lower-body injury.

This was Tangradi’s first goal in 30 games that he dressed for, dating back to Nov. 8 against the Nashville Predators.

Tangradi had a solid outing overall, finishing with two shots on goal, four hits and a blocked shot in just over 17 minutes of ice time, which was easily his heaviest workload of the campaign. Just twice under Claude Noel had he even been over 15 minutes and his season-high was 15:58 in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 6.

Gabriel Landeskog tied it up late in the second, converting a rebound after a point shot by Andre Benoit but the Jets went back on top again as Evander Kane finished off a nice passing play from Devin Setoguchi and Paul Postma just past the midway point of the second period.

It was Kane’s 17th of the season and second in three games after being mired in an 11-game drought.

But this lead wasn’t safe either as Avalanche defenceman Nick Holden crept down from the left point and caught Montoya cheating as he was anticipated a pass, and lifted his shot over a sliding Toby Enstrom to even the scoring with 30.5 seconds to go in the middle frame.

This too had the potential to be a let-the-air-out-of-the-balloon type of moment for the Jets — who have given up several back-breakers late in periods — but they got a power-play goal from Ladd at 4:58 of the third that made it 4-3.

Ladd started the play by carrying the puck into the zone, then dished it to Wheeler, drove toward the net and found a quiet space in the slot before accepting the pass and ripping it past Berra for his 21st of the season.

But Binscarth product Cody McLeod took advantage of a pinch in the neutral zone by Adam Pardy and elected to shoot through the five-hole on a 2-on-1 rush to make it 4-4 midway through the third and force overtime.

That’s where Wheeler showed off his soft hands and patience, leading the rush but waiting and waiting and waiting until the opportune moment to rip his shot past Berra, giving the Jets a 5-4 victory and keeping their slim playoff hopes alive for another day.

This was definitely a gut-check win for the Jets, who realize they will to be close to running the table during the past 11 games just to have a shot at a wild card berth in the Western Conference.

As it stands right now, the Jets are four points behind the Phoenix Coyotes, who hold two games in hand.

Here’s the condensed version: Wild (82), Coyotes (77), Stars (75), Canucks (74), Jets (73), Predators (68).

This game probably had a little too much run-and-goal for the liking of Maurice, but he liked the way his group fought through some more adversity.

It wasn’t the sharpest outing for Montoya, who gave up four goals on 27 shots but battled once again and found a way to get it done.

The Jets were also without defenceman Zach Bogosian, who came down with a mystery upper-body injury midway through the pre-game warm-up, which caused some minor commotion as trainer Brad Shaw had to try and track down Paul Postma, who wasn’t on the ice for the warm-up.

Postma, who was scheduled to be a healthy scratch and was on his way to the rink for an off-ice workout when his phone rang at 6:45 p.m. It was Shaw on the line letting him know his services were required for the 7:05 p.m. puck drop.

Postma didn’t think Shaw was serious at first, but he got to the rink as quickly as he could and may have set a record for the shortest amount of time to put on his gear. He even had a couple of quick minutes to stretch before the anthems were sung.

I wrote about Postma’s interesting call to action in my sidebar in Thursday’s paper and available online at www.winnipegsun.com.

My game analysis column focused on the Jets’ ability to hang tough with a tough that had gone 3-0-1 against them going into the contest.

Columnist Paul Friesen handled the Snapshots column.

Not surprising, this was the fifth consecutive game between the two teams this season and by all accounts, this will be a fun rivalry to watch in the years to come.

The Avalanche play an up-tempo style and they’re even better when starting goalie Semyon Varlamov is between the pipes.

The Jets expended a lot of energy in this one, so they canceled their Thursday practice. There won’t be any availability either, so don’t expect any updates on the blog until after Friday’s skate.

The Jets host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night in their final game before a pivotal five-game road trip against Western Conference clubs, all of whom are either jockeying for position (Ducks, Sharks, Kings) or battling for a playoff spot (Stars and Coyotes).

Winnipeg improved to 4-4 on the season when hosting a team that played the night before and that’s the exact situation the Hurricanes will be in after facing the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on Friday.

Many folks will be keeping their eyes open for the out-of-town scoreboard on Thursday for the following games:

Stars at Philadelphia Flyers and the Coyotes hosting Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers.

Just a quick programming note, I’ll be joining the folks on Sirius/XM Home Ice at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday to talk Jets.

Tune in. Otherwise, I’ll talk to you on Friday.

Categories: Hockey

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