"Our best home game of the year."
That is how Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel described the effort put forward by his team in a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
The game had several turning points and was not three minutes old when Colton Orr and Chris Thorburn fought. The fight seemed to spark the Jets with Captain Andrew Ladd leading the way in a game that featured a lot of hits, some great goals, the two captains (Ladd and Dion Phaneuf) fighting, great saves by Ondrej Pavelec, another successful five-on-three penalty kill by the Jets, a power play goal by the Jets, their first in eight games, and an assist by Ladd that kept him as only one of five players in the NHL to not go consecutive games without a point.
Thorburn was back in the lineup after being scratched the previous four. With Thorburn in, Alexander Burmistrov was not dressed.
The Jets power play opened the scoring when a Dustin Byfuglien shot went off Nik Antropov and into the Maple Leafs net. It was only Antropov's second goal of the season and the first in 20 games for the former Leaf.
Phil Kessel tied the game for Toronto 38 seconds into the second period, only to have Blake Wheeler regain the lead for Winninpeg 25 seconds later.
The Jets then found themselves down two men for 1:54, but great work by Pavelec, Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian and Jim Slater helped the Jets kill off the disadvantage. Noel and Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle both agreed, "That was the turning point."
Shortly after the kill, Kyle Wellwood made it a two goal lead with his second of the year. In the third, Evander Kane notched his 11th goal of the season and Wheeler scored his second of the game and ninth of the year to make it 5-1 before Kessel rounded out the scoring with his second of the night.
Antropov finished the night with a goal and two assists for his 15th career three point game while Byfuglien finished with three assists. Wellwood also had a goal and an assist.
In total, the Jets directed 67 shots at the Leafs net, with 34 shots on goal, a total of 22 blocked and another 11 that missed the target.
The Jets are now 8-3-1 in their last 12, and move into a tie for eighth in the Eastern Conference with the New York Rangers who lost in Buffalo. The Jets also and stay three back in the southeast behind Carolina, who won 4-0 in Washington.
The Jets are home to the Rangers Thursday (TSN Jets, TSN 1290), before heading to Ontario for two on the weekend, in Toronto Saturday (TSN 1290), and in Ottawa Sunday (4 pm Central Time TSN Jets and TSN 1290).
"We got good games from a lot of guys," said Noel after the game. That list would include pretty much the entire team, even those that did not get on the scoreboard. James Wright was terrific in every aspect of the game, other than scoring on the two great chances he had. He too was a key part of the penalty kill that has now gone 25-for-25 over the last nine games and is over 90 percent in the last twelve games.
"Andrew Ladd showed again why he is the captain, he lead the way," added Noel. "The goal after the five on three kill really elevated the emotion in the building and it was already high."