WASHINGTON -- Coming into this season there was plenty of talk about what the Jets needed to accomplish to give themselves a chance at a playoff spot. At the top of the list was winning more road games, be better in back-to-back situations, improve team statistics away from MTS Centre, be a more consistent team, cut down goals against, and so on.
Three games does not a season make, and the Jets have plenty of work to do to get where they want to go, BUT in the past two games we did see some baby steps in the right direction. Coming home from a two-game trip with three points is a confidence builder.
The shootout loss in Boston did not sit well with the team. Coming out of a game against the Bruins with even a point is a good thing, but because they squandered a couple of power plays late, the Jets knew they left a point behind.
So into Washington they went, trying to find a way to win in the second game of a back-to-back situation, something they only accomplished once in 13 tries last year.
The Capitals were 10-0 in home openers since 2001 and under new head coach Adam Oates looked to continue that trend. Matt Hendricks opened the scoring as the puck went off his skate and in. The Jets survived some early turnovers, then stormed back and power play goals by Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd had them in front 2-1 after one.
The second was the Jets' best period of the young season. They fired 20 shots at Caps goalie Braden Holtby, scoring twice. The forechecking was text book and goals by Blake Wheeler and Jim Slater had them in front 4-1. A big time push from the Caps in the third saw them outshoot the Jets 17-6, but very good goaltending by Ondrej Pavelec preserved a Jets 4-2 win.
Statistically the Jets are now 1-1-1, have scored six goals (with six different goal scorers), scored two power play goals in the first period in Washington - with Ron Hainsey and Chris Thorburn the only Jets players without a shot on goal. Olli Jokinen, Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little led the way with five shots each, Dustin Byfuglien again led the team in ice time with 26:18, and that after a ten minute-plus first period. The win also puts the division rival Caps at 0-2 on the season. It was a three-assist night for Toby Enstrom with Kane, Wheeler and Byfuglien each with two-point nights. Enstrom and Byfuglien continue to be a great "D" pairing, "because we are so different" is how Enstrom described it.
Head coach Claude Noel mixed his lines up going into the Tuesday encounter, starting with inserting James Wright and taking out Kyle Wellwood. "Size and speed are two important factors going into this game," explained Noel, "plus we need to look at some young guys." With Wellwood out, Wright, who had been picked up on waivers, played on a line with Slater and Thorburn. Twenty-two year old Wright, a former Tampa draft, has good size and good speed. Wheeler joined Jokinen and Kane on a line, with Nik Antropov between Ladd and Little. Little did play a lot of right wing in the 08/09 season when he scored a career-high 31 times. That left Alexander Burmistrov between Alexei Ponikarovsky and Mark Scheifele.
"Evander Kane was very good these two road games. He was involved," commented Coach Noel on the 21-year-old fourth year player. "This was a big game for us to win."
In post-game interviews with TSN 1290, both Ladd and Wheeler talked about the importance of picking up road wins, and how critical it is to the Jets becoming a better, more consistent team.
Jets now return home to face Pittsburgh Friday (TSN National, TSN 1290) and the New York Islanders (TSN Jets, TSN 1290).