With NHL action on pause, now is a good time to reflect back on some of the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 “firsts.” The Jets have been lighting up the goal lamp, stopping pucks, dropping the gloves and winning games since they came back to Winnipeg in 2011 — it’s time to re-live the “firsts.”
First Goal — Nik Antropov
On Oct. 9, 2011, the Jets lost 5-1 to the Montreal Canadiens in the first game in Jets 2.0 history, but one positive came out of the game — the team’s first goal. Nik Antropov, the big centreman from Kazakhstan, will have his name stitched in Jets history and will be the answer to a sports trivia question forever after scoring the big goal.
Antropov got his big body to the front of the net, making things difficult for Carey Price when defenceman Mark Stuart shot a puck into traffic. Antropov turned, saw the puck and backhanded the rebound past the Canadiens netminder.
He fell on his back and lifted both his arms up to celebrate, knowing he just made history as the fans inside the MTS Centre cheered on.
First Hat-Trick — Bryan Little
The Jets 2.0 didn’t record a hat-trick until their fourth season back in Winnipeg when Bryan Little scored three goals in the team’s 6-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 5, 2011.
The first goal needed a video review. Little wristed a shot into a wide-open net, but Semyon Varlamov stretched across the goal and caught the puck, making what the refs called a save on the play. After review, the officials said Varlamov’s glove crossed the goal line and it was a good goal.
45 seconds into the third period, Blake Wheeler kept the play alive at the blue line and found Little open in front of the net. Little received the pass and one-timed it past Varlamov’s glove side. Just 32 seconds later, Wheeler and Andrew Ladd were poking away at a loose puck. The puck bounced to the front of the net and Little rifled it past Varlamov for his third of the game. Little skated to fist bump his teammates on the bench as hats showered down onto the ice.
Little played on a line with Wheeler and Ladd in this game, and the line combined for 10 points.
First Shutout — Ondrej Pavelec
It only took 12 games for the Jets 2.0 to record their first shutout victory. On Nov. 3, 2011 Jets starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec turned away all 34 shots in the team’s 3-0 road win over the New York Islanders.
The Jets played this game without defencemen Stuart, Tobias Enstrom and Ron Hainsey, but Pavelec and their depth players stepped up.
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As brilliant as Pavelec was in the game, the team blocked 19 shots with Zach Bogosian leading the way with four, and Tanner Glass and Jim Slater laying out for three blocks each. Pavelec finished the 2011-12 season with a team-leading four shutouts.
First Fight — Mark Stuart and Dustin Byfuglien
Every other “first” was a regular-season milestone, but when it comes to fights this preseason scrum has to be mentioned.
On Sept. 9, 2011, It was the first preseason game back in Winnipeg since the team returned, and defencemen Stuart and Dustin Byfuglien quickly got fans onto their feet. On the first shift of the game, Byfuglien delivered two crushing hits, including one where Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert found himself looking up at the jumbotron with his back on the ice.
The Jackets didn’t take kindly to Byfuglien’s hits, so Cody Bass and Dane Byers took on Byfuglien and Stuart in the Jets 2.0’s first brawl. Big Buff grabbed a hold of Bass’s jersey and didn’t let him get any good shots in, while Stuart and Byers exchanged a couple blows before Byers took the former down to the ice.
Jets fans stood on their feet and cheered on their two defencemen as they made their way into the penalty box. Although this isn’t a regular-season fight, it’s definitely remembered as the first. The future of Byfuglien and the NHL is unknown, but if he returns, you can bet his physical play will too.
First Win — Regular Season and playoffs
After three straight losses, the Jets 2.0 got their first win on Oct. 17, 2011 with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in front of a packed MTS Centre crowd.
Eight seconds into the game, the Jets got a break. After passes between Antropov and Alex Burmistrov, Kyle Wellwood was in position to receive a pass and beat Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Jets up 1-0. With just over a minute remaining in the first period, Burmistrov stole the puck from Kris Letang and passed the puck up to Tanner Glass who beat a screened Fleury through the five-hole. The Jets gave up a goal in the second period but held on to win their first game in Jets 2.0 history.
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Fast forward to April 11, 2018 and that’s when the Jets 2.0 won their first playoff game in team history. The Whiteout was back in full force at Bell MTS Place as a sellout crowd was on scene for the first playoff game of their series with the Minnesota Wild. The Whiteout lingered outside the building as well, as the fans who couldn’t get into the game gathered on the streets for a watch party.
The Jets opened the scoring late in the second period on the power play when Wheeler found Mark Scheifele open in the slot. Scheifele beat Devan Dubnyk’s blocker side when he one-timed the pass in for the team’s first goal. The Wild responded with two goals in the first four minutes of the third period, but the Jets battled back.
Just under a minute after the Wild’s second goal, Patrik Laine stick-handled the puck into the offensive zone and rifled a shot past Dubnyk to tie the game. Then, with just over seven minutes remaining in the game, Nikolaj Ehlers backhanded a pass off the boards back to defenceman Joe Morrow who rocketed a slapshot through Dubnyk’s legs. The Jets hung on to take a 1-0 series lead, before going on to win their first playoff series.
When the NHL pause is over, whether it’s finishing the 2019-20 season or starting the 2020-21 season, the Jets will have one thing in mind — adding a Stanley Cup win to this list.