The Olympics have come and gone and the Winnipeg Jets have picked up where they left off with their winning ways. The three week break provided the Jets players with some needed rest and has given the players that participated in the Sochi Olympics that extra confidence just in time for the playoff chase.
The Winnipeg Jets continued to find ways to win as they returned to action against the Phoenix Coyotes at the MTS Centre. In a battle between Western Conference teams both chasing a playoff spot, both Olympic goalies were up to the task for their respective team. Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes won an Olympic Gold medal but it was Ondrej Pavelec who got the last laugh. Pavelec did not medal in Sochi but looked amazing stopping 34 of 36 shots in the shootout victory.
Coyotes Oliver Ekman-Larsson opened the scoring in the first period with a wrist shot but the Winnipeg Jets would quickly respond with a goal from Blake Wheeler. Bryan Little was left wide open in front of the net and gave the Jets the lead in the second period on a powerplay goal. Martin Hanzal capitalized with a Coyotes powerplay goal on a questionable penalty to tie the game in the third period. The two teams needed a shootout to determine a winner and it was Olli Jokinen, fresh off a Bronze medal performance, with the game winning goal.
Blake Wheeler talked about the Jets gritty performance.
“”It’s an all-out sprint. There is no time to think about being tired. You’ve got to lay it on the line. If [we] want to be a playoff team, which we want to be, there’s going to be a lot more hard hockey ahead of us.”
Following the victory, the Jets flew to Music City to take on Central Division rivals, the Nashville Predators. Olli Jokinen continued to play with poise as he beat Preds goalie Carter Hutton with an amazing shot going top corner. Captain Andrew Ladd would get the second goal of the game in the second period and it was more than enough for the Jets as they held on to a 3-1 win. Pavelec seems to have found his confidence once again stopping 39 of 40 Predator shots including some magnificent saves during the penalty kill. Pavelec might have received criticism for his play at the beginning of the year but his recent play is one of the main reasons the Jets are back in contention.
The Winnipeg Jets are now tied with the Dallas Stars with 66 points for the final Wildcard spot but the Stars have two games in hand. The next eight of ten games will be played at the MTS Centre.
Photos by Ron Cantiveros | Filipino Journal