NHL

Beyak: Jets within four points of the final playoff spot

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Dennis Beyak
2/2/2014 9:34:42 PM
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Winnipeg Jets 2, Montreal Canadiens 1 (Jets 27-25-5, road 13-14-1) - With the win, the Jets are now two games above the five hundred mark for the first time since starting the season 2-0. The win also moved the Jets to within four points of the final playoff spot. Four points separate spots 8-12 in the West.  It was the Jets' 32nd one-goal game of the season and the seventh in the last eight games. The Jets are now 8-2 in the last 10. The Jets' last five wins have come against teams sitting in a playoff spot. After going winless in their first six afternoon games, the Jets have now won their last two.

The first period was scoreless with both Carey Price and Al Montoya making a number of very good saves as the Canadiens outshot the Jets 12-10.

The opening goal of the game came at 9:13 of the second as Toby Enstrom beat Price with a wrap around. It was Enstrom's sixth of the season with assists to Chris Thorburn and Blake Wheeler. It was the second straight game that a Jets defenceman opened the scoring, after Zach Bogosian opened the scoring against Vancouver Friday.  Montreal tied the game with the teams playing four on four, Brian Gionta notching his 10th of the year. Shots in the second were 13-9 in favour of the Jets.

The Jets got the winner early in the third as Price mishandled the puck against the checking of Andrew Ladd, allowing Ladd to find Micheal Frolik open in front of the Montreal goal who scored his 12th of the year. Ladd has nine points in the last nine games. Jets outshot Montreal 12-10 in the third and 35-31 over the game.  It was a wild third period with a number of net front battles at both ends. The game ended with a pile up in front of Montoya following a last second save. 
 
For the fourth straight game, Bogosian led the Jets in ice time at 27:30. He also led in shots on goal with six. Mark Stuart had five shots on goal as the Jets defence core accounted for 15 of the 35 shots. Dustin Byfuglien leads the Jets in hits and added to that total with 10. It was another very good game for Byfuglien. Mark Scheifele was a plus one in the game as is a plus 11 in the last 10 games.

Coach Paul Maurice liked most of what he saw from his team, but there were areas of concern.

"We did some funny things with the puck at strange time, but that will come. This was a confidence builder. It's not an easy building to play in. We were better in the third than in the first and second."

Jets were guilty at times of not moving the puck quick enough, allowing Montreal to create turnovers with their forecheck. "We've made pretty good strides in some areas", continued coach Maurice. "We are working on defining what Winnipeg Jets hockey is. Two goals, one is making the playoffs, but first is building a foundation for a game we understand. We are big, fast and young. We're using that."

On the play of Montoya, "he made some great saves. Good for the team to know whoever is in, they have confidence in him. After the Chicago game we knew we had to get him back in. Not playing for seven or eight days is like starting from scratch all the time. This win makes the Chicago win even better." When asked about the play of Mark Stuart, who received the fighter pilot helmet from his teammates, "every game I get a far greater appreciation for the role he plays." Stuart was as battle ready as could be for this game with a number of one-on-one confrontations, but especially with Brendan Gallagher and Gionta.

The Jets continue the four game road trip Tuesday in coach Maurice's old stomping grounds, Carolina (TSN Jets, TSN 1290).  Twice he was head coach of the Hurricanes. Then it is into Washington and St. Louis to close out the pre-Olympic schedule (TSN Jets, TSN 1290). The Jets will then finish with 22 games in 44 days, with 15 of the 22 games against Western Conference opponents.

Tobias Enstrom, Jets celebrate (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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