With the Jets' 2-1 win over the Sabres Monday, they are now one point behind Ottawa and the New York Rangers for eighth spot on the Eastern Conference and one point behind Washington for top spot in the Southeast Division.
The Jets have two games remaining, while the others have three. The Jets are in Washington Tuesday and home to Montreal Thursday (that game can be found live on TSN Jets and TSN Radio Winnipeg 1290).
The Tuesday game against the Caps is not only the biggest game of the year, but probably the biggest game since the move to Winnipeg. It will mark the Jets final regular season game as a member of the Southeast Division. The Jets have picked up 13 of a possible 14 points in the last 7 games.
The first period was scoreless despite the Jets outshooting the Sabres 14-4. Evander Kane was stopped by Jhonas Enroth on a penalty shot, his shot going off Enroth's glove and then the cross bar.
Aaron Gagnon opened the scoring, the second time he has scored the first goal of the game. Derek Meech - in for the injured Zach Bogosian - picked up an assist, his first point of the season. Meech was a healthy scratch the past eight games. Tomas Vanek tied the game on a power play and that is the way the second period ended. The Jets again had the better chances but Enroth was terrific in goal.
The game winner came at the 12:24 mark of the third. Antti Miettinen handcuffed Enroth with a slap shot from the edge of the circle, with the puck just getting across the goal line. Miettinen had been a healthy scratch for the past six and was in for the injured Olli Jokinen. In the final seven minutes of the game the Sabres had a number of great scoring chances but could not beat Ondrej Pavelec who was terrific in preserving the win.
It was the sixth straight game the Jets have beaten the Sabres, allowing one goal in each of the games. Pavelec has been in goal for all of them.
The Jets lost Kyle Wellwood with a hand injury in the second period, an injury Coach Claude Noel labelled “long term.”
The scoring streaks that Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little were on all came to an end. Dustin Byfuglien and Grant Clitsome each had six shots on goal, Wheeler had five.
On the injury front Coach Noel said Nik Antropov might be an option for the Washington game, same for Anthony Peluso, while Jim Slater will not be available. Antropov has been out eight games with a lower body injury.
“We had our work cut out for us," said Noel. "We played a strong game. Tried not to get too wrapped up in the shots on goal and scoring chances. (Both were very much in the Jets favour.) Our team has shown character, resiliency, focus, a very good work ethic, a 60-minute game and our goaltender has kept us in the game with some big game changing saves. We just kept putting pucks to the net thinking something would break for us.”
As for the game against the Caps?
“The standings dictate that it's a big game," said Noel. "They'll be coming, they'll be all we can handle. We need to put our best foot forward.”