Jets win in shootout
WINNIPEG—Blake Wheeler says his Winnipeg Jets are racing for a Western Conference playoff spot.
Winnipeg got out of the post-Olympic starting blocks quickly with a 3-2 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes last night as Wheeler scored his 23rd goal of the season.
“I think it’s an all-out sprint,” he added. “There’s no time to be tired.”
Wheeler was joined on the scoresheet by Bryan Little.
Olli Jokinen put away the shootout winner in the fourth round for Winnipeg (29-26-6).
Devin Setoguchi also beat Coyotes’ goalie Mike Smith in the shootout while Antoine Vermette was the lone Coyote to solve Ondrej Pavelec.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Martin Hanzal scored in regulation time for Phoenix (27-21-11) in the first game for both teams after a 19-day break for the Winter Olympics.
The Jets continued their winning ways under new head coach Paul Maurice, improving to 10-3-1 since he replaced the fired Claude Noel.
Despite some less-than-crisp play, the coach said he was pleasantly surprised by how well his team played after such a long layoff.
“It was tough at times but just from the stuff I watched the last two days [around the league], it was a better game than I thought I was going to see,” Maurice noted.
Winnipeg pulled within one point of the Coyotes as both teams chase a wild-card playoff spot, although Phoenix holds two games in hand.
Dallas sits in the final spot with 66 points—one better than Phoenix and Vancouver and two ahead of Winnipeg.
Pavelec made 34 saves for the Jets, with two of his toughest stops coming in overtime.
“It wasn’t an easy game for both teams. It was the first game back and we didn’t know what to expect a little bit,” said Pavelec, who stopped Mike Ribeiro to end the shootout.
Smith stopped 27 shots for the visitors, including a pair of scoring chances in the final seconds of regulation.
“For the most part I felt not too bad,” said Smith, who was a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning team in Sochi but didn’t see any playing time.
“But like I said, it doesn’t matter how you feel,” he added. “You need to come out on the better side of things.”
The teams wasted no time reminding fans of one of the differences between international hockey and the NHL game.
Winnipeg’s Zach Bogosian and Phoenix’s Rob Klinkhammer dropped the gloves just 78 seconds into the game after Klinkhammer shoved Bogosian’s defence partner Toby Enstrom into the boards.
Elsewhere in the NHL, the N.Y. Islanders edged Toronto 5-4 (OT), Montreal topped Pittsburgh 6-5 (SO), Detroit dumped Ottawa 6-1, Minnesota blanked Edmonton 3-0, and L.A. whitewashed Calgary 2-0.
The N.Y. Rangers nipped Chicago 2-1, Washington shaded Florida 5-4, New Jersey beat Columbus 5-2, San Jose dumped Philadelphia 7-3, Nashville trimmed Tampa Bay 3-2, and Dallas downed Carolina 4-1.