Winnipeg Jets 3 Tampa Bay Lightning 2 – After back-to-back home losses the Jets looked to close out the four-game home stand with a win against a team that had went through a tough day, finding out in the morning that Guy Boucher was no longer their coach.
The Jets got Toby Enstrom back after missing 19 games due to injury, but played without Mark Stuart, Ron Hainsey and James Wright, as they joined Jim Slater, Anthony Peluso and Zach Redmond on the injured list.
Both teams made plenty of mistakes in the first period with Bryan Little scoring his fifth of the year, snapping a stretch of nine games without a goal. His last goal was the game winner in Tampa on March 7.
Ondrej Pavelec started his 10th straight game and 21st in the last 22 games and needed to make a number of good saves to have the first period end 1-0.
Dustin Byfuglien notched his sixth of the year on a power play, before Steven Stamkos, also on the power play, with is league leading 22nd of the year cut the lead to one. Enstrom made it 3-1 to close out the second, a period that saw both goalies make spectacular glove saves - Cedrick Desjardins off Andrew Ladd and Pavelec off Cory Conacher. Conacher scored on a deflection at the 5:01 mark of the third to cut the lead to one, but that's the way the game ended.
For the Jets, the Little goal was the first time in six games the Jets scored the game's opening goal. Little also had two assists for a three-point night, his fifth career three point game. Blake Wheeler had two assists for his 10th multiple point game of the season. Byfuglien now has goals in back-to-back games and is 3-7-10 in the last 10 games. Ladd did pick up an assist and has 15 points in the last 14 games. Grant Clitsome, paired with Zach Bogosian, logged a season high 25:33 in ice time.
The Jets now lead Carolina by four points for top spot in the Southeast, with two of the next three games against the Hurricanes. The Jets will play five of the next six on the road, starting Tuesday in Carolina (TSN Jets, TSN 1290), Thursday in Pittsburgh (TSN Jets, TSN 1290), then home Saturday afternoon at 2pm against Carolina (TSN Jets, TSN 1290). Then it's three on the road against the Rangers, Islanders and Canadiens.
Coach Claude Noel promised a smile if they won, and even though he has some concerns about the way his team started the game, he did start his post game news conference with a smile.
“We put the puck to the net more, managed the puck better. The power play was pretty good. There was some rust on Enstrom's game early, but he was good. He and Byfuglien enjoy playing together. The first goal was big. We grip sticks if we don't. It energized the building.”
Things seemed in control until Conacher made it a one goal game.
“Their second goal seemed to un-nerve us,” continued Coach Noel. “But we did some good things after it went to 3-2. There was a lot at stake for us.”
He again singled out his goaltender for his terrific play.
“Pav has been our best player for a long stretch. I'm glad he's in our net. The Little line was really strong. Little was a major impact in the game.”