It was ugly at times and might not have been the complete, 60-minute rebound game they had hoped for, but winning one period was good enough for the Winnipeg Jets in Ottawa last night.
The Jets broke open a 1-1 tie with two goals in the third, beating the Senators 3-2 and improving to 3-1 on their five-game trip.
It was a red-letter game of sorts for Winnipeg, coming on the heels of a lacklustre 4-2 loss to the Sens on Monday and with a tilt against the first-place Leafs looming in Toronto tonight.
“They play a hard game,” forward Mathieu Perreault said. “They don’t give you any easy ice out there, so we just kind of stuck with it. We’ve got to play a hard game as well, and chip away at it and we were able in the third to find a way to get a couple of goals and get a win.
“It’s a big win for us, especially after what happened last game. We didn’t really like our game or our effort, so it was a good bounce-back game.”
The Jets improve to 26-14-3, three points up on second-place Edmonton in the NHL’s North Division, with the Oilers holding a game in hand.
Stiffer tests are coming: Winnipeg plays its next eight against playoff-bound Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton.
Perreault snapped a 1-1 tie with a power-play snipe that broke the water bottle behind Matt Murray early in the third period, his ninth of the season.
“That was pretty sweet,” he acknowledged. “Hit the water bottle like that doesn’t happen really often. The sound that it makes is pretty cool.”
When Trevor Lewis scored his second shorthanded goal of the year on a breakaway midway through the third, the Jets just needed to clamp down to improve their season record against the last-place Sens to 6-2.
Ottawa pulled to within one with 10 seconds left, scoring on a two-man advantage, but that was all they could muster against a sharp Laurent Brossoit in the Jets net.
For the complete scoring summary, click here.
Brossoit was also trying to bounce back from a sub-par outing in his previous start, more than two weeks ago.
“There was a lot of good things that I had been working towards that I did well in the last game, but then obviously there were a couple brain farts,” Brossoit said. “I took the good and left the bad and worked on the details from then until this game. I was feeling good leading up to this one.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice, not thrilled with what he was seeing, shuffled his lines for the third period, moving Paul Stastny to centre between Nik Ehlers and Andrew Copp.
That bumped Pierre-Luc Dubois out to the wing on the top line, with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor.
The change didn’t produce a goal, but Maurice liked what his team did defensively in the final 20 minutes.
“It wasn’t easy,” the coach acknowledged. “They’ve got their game now to a kind of a loose and fast and fairly high-risk game. That can be a dangerous thing … not an easy one to handle.
“I thought we were better after (the line changes).”
After giving up a handful of breakaways in Monday’s loss, the Jets were in a generous mood again early.
A bad bounce combined with a defensive miscue by Derek Forbort and Neal Pionk allowed Nick Paul to go in all alone and beat Brossoit, just 1:19 in.
Barely two minutes later, poor defence at the other end allowed Ehlers to find a wide-open Scheifele for Winnipeg’s first goal.
A troubling sign for the Jets in that first period: They gave up two partial breakaways while on a power play.
They had more communication problems in the second and started passing the puck into each other’s skates, to boot.
Meanwhile, the Sens kicked it up a notch and Winnipeg was lucky to escape the period in a 1-1 tie.
Ottawa looked quicker and hungrier at that point, even outworking the Jets.
“We had about 10 even-strength shots in the first, they had five, and then that evened out end of two,” Maurice said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of offence, nothing clean really going for either team.”
The coach’s difference-makers: His special teams and Brossoit.
It would come down to the final period and the Jets’ valuable ability to avoid a second straight regulation loss, something they’ve managed to do all but once this season.
“It just starts with leadership,” Lewis said. “Those guys get everyone going. We’ve got a tight group in there. We know how to win. We know we just had to stick with it. Came out, had a good third.”
They also know they’ll need more than that in Toronto on Thursday.
See no evil
The Jets didn’t see anything wrong with their first period, despite the fact they gave up too many odd-man rushes and some partial breakaways for the second straight game.
“We liked our first period,” Perreault said. “Paul came in after the first and he liked what he saw, the effort was there. We were on the forecheck, finishing checks. We maybe gave up a few odd-man rushes. The first goal was just a bad bounce that we put behind us, but the rest of the period we thought we played decent, so we just build off of that.”
“We played good. We played the right way. We knew they were going to come hard, they were going to grind us. It was going to be a hard-fought game. It always is against them. We kept it simple, got on the forecheck and when we did, we got pucks back and had our chances.”
Maurice says it’s hard for a backup goalie with little practice time, but Brossoit did some extra work with goalie coach Wade Flaherty since his last start.
“He was good. Really important for him because he had a tough one in his last game,” the coach said. “Wade and he were on the ice just about every day… he worked hard to get back into the form he was.”
Playing it safe
Maurice used regular lines for the Jets’ final power play with a couple minutes left on the clock.
The reason: defence. Not to mention the first unit wasn’t doing all that much.
“In a two-goal game like that, I thought we needed two defencemen on the ice,” he said.
By The Numbers
Goals by period
Shots by period
Jets: Scheifele 1-0-1, Perreault 1-0-1, Lewis 1-0-1
Sens: Paul 1-0-1, Norris 1-0-1
Jets: Scheifele 5, Stastny 4
Sens: Tkachuk 6, J. Brown 3, Dzingel 3
Jets: Lowry 5, Forbort 5, Ehlers 4
Sens: J. Brown 5, Tkachuk 4, Norris 4
Jets: Morrissey 4, Poolman 2
Sens: Zub 3, J. Brown 2, Paul 2, Bernard-Docker 2
Jets: Forbort 22:46, Morrissey 20:43, Pionk 20:09
Sens: Chabot 26:39, J. Brown 20:12, Brannstrom 18:14
Jets: Lowry 13-6, Stastny 7-7, Scheifele 3-3
Sens: Norris 8-4, Tierney 5-5, Paul 4-5