The Winnipeg Jets have won their past three games, and like a squirrel stashing away acorns before winter, have stowed away 62 points through 46 games this season. The past three wins — against the Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, and Vegas Golden Knights — haven’t come easily. They’ve been edge-of-your-seat, watch-with-bated-breath, ultra-stressful affairs.
Each game has been characterized by a critical moment, a pivotal point delivered by one Jet or another that was indispensable in allowing the Jets to come out on top. Here are three moments that were key to the Jets’ past three W’s.
Jets Versus Red Wings: Little’s Milestone Marker
You best make hay when the sun shines, because you never know when it’s going to rain. Bryan Little, at 4:51 of Friday night’s second period against the Red Wings, took a pass from Kyle Connor and fired a quick one past Jonathan Bernier to boost a two-goal lead to three and capture his 500th-career NHL point.
The veteran’s goal turned out to be integral. The Jets had played well to that point, but shortly after, fatigue started to set in. They were playing the latter of back-to-back games and had just arrived back in Winnipeg from St. Paul, Minnesota in the wee hours. And this began to show as the game rolled on.
The Red Wings greatly outplayed and out-chanced the Jets from the mid-second through the end of the game, and Luke Glendening and Dennis Cholowski both scored to cut the Jets’ lead from three to one. However, the breathing room Little’s goal provided allowed the Jets to survive the onslaught and capture a victory, however unconvincingly.
“It was another one of those strange games where there was a lot of momentum shifts,” Little told reporters after the game. “We let off the gas a couple times in the second, they made a good push.”
“Bryan does whatever job we ask…” head coach Paul Maurice said in his post-game comments. “He competed right from the start to the finish and he does that every night. He’s not under appreciated by the people here… he’s a better player now than he’s ever been.”
Jets Versus Ducks: Hellebuyck’s Sprawling Overtime Save
On Sunday evening, in sudden death, Connor Hellebuyck stretched out and used every inch of his 6-foot-4 frame to make a stop that prevented a potentially demoralizing loss.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 14, 2019
Their opponent, the Ducks, came into the matchup in an absolute free fall, losers of 10 straight. However, they were hungry and gave the Jets all they could handle.
The Ducks possessed 2-0 and 3-2 leads, but Ben Chiarot’s third-period goal forced overtime. Early in the three-on-three frame, Cam Fowler had a glorious in-tight chance to end things, but Hellebuyck’s heroics ensured the Jets would play on. Little scored the winner with 11 seconds left in extra time — his seventh point of a five-game point streak — to push the Ducks’ dubious streak to 11.
Jets Versus Golden Knights: Perreault’s Unassisted Effort
Tuesday’s game was a true measuring stick for the Jets: the long-awaited, much-hyped rematch of the 2018 Western Conference Final in which the the Golden Knights knocked off the Jets in five games and quashed their Stanley Cup aspirations.
This wasn’t just a normal, mid-January game — it was a litmus test as the Golden Knights came into the matchup having won of eight of their last 10.
“Obviously, they kicked our ass in the playoffs. We want to win (on Tuesday) and get the two points,” Patrik Laine said. “It’s one of those games we’ve been looking forward to,” Little echoed. “This is one we’ve had circled on our calendars, that we’re ready for.”
The Jets found themselves up 1-0 in the second thanks to a Connor shorthanded goal, but were being peppered by shots by the visiting Golden Knights. Laurent Brossoit, who got the surprise start, set a new franchise record for most saves in a period by making 26 second-period stops.
It seemed the Golden Knights were destined to tie the game given their relentless pressure, but Mathieu Perreault notched a critical goal late in the second: the Jets’ second goal of the period on their fifth shot.
It doesn't get much better than this! 👇
🚨: Mathieu Perreault
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 16, 2019
Perreault stole the puck at the blue line, chipped it by Deryk Engelland, cut to his backhand, and lifted the puck over the glove of Marc-Andre Fleury. The individual effort was his 10th of the season and second since his five-game goal streak ended.
The goal was even more important given what transpired shortly after: Connor and Jacob Trouba took back-to-back penalties that put the Jets down two men. The two-goal lead, however, ensured the very best the Golden Knights could do, if they scored on both advantages, was tie the game rather than take the lead.
The Jets killed the entire two-man advantage, but allowed an early third-period goal shortly after Trouba left the box. However, they grabbed a pair of empty-netters to cement the win.
More Great Moments to Come?
The Jets have two more games before their league-mandated bye week bleeds into the 2019 All-Star festivities and gives them eight days off after playing nine games in 16 days.
Before the team can exhale and before Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Maurice can catch some rays and have some fun in sunny San Jose, they’ve got business to attend to. They have a pair of Central Division clashes on the calendar — Thursday against the Nashville Predators and Saturday against the Dallas Stars.
You can bet the Central Division-leading Jets would like to grab four more points and cushion their slim lead. You can also bet every player will be looking to deliver that one catalyzing moment that has been so prevalent over their past three games.Will it be a usual suspect or someone new? We’ll soon find out.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.