WINNIPEG – Despite leading his team on offence Thursday night, Andrew Ladd only wanted to talk about teammate Dustin Byfuglien’s end-to-end rush.
Ladd had two goals and an assist to lead the Winnipeg Jets in a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.
His second goal—the game-winner—came in a four-on-four situation with eight minutes remaining and the game tied 1-1. Byfuglien carried the puck all the way from behind his own net and attempted a wraparound before Ladd jammed the loose puck past Devils goalie Johan Hedberg.
“Buff did the leg work and I had to pick up the garbage,”said Ladd, who leads the Jets with 12 goals on the season.“It was an unbelievable rush on his part and I just went to the net and found it.”
Jets coach Claude Noel was just as impressed with the rush by the big freewheeling defenceman.
“I think that Buff decided we’re not going to go to overtime,”Noel said.“I mean, did you see him skate? He looked like a stallion there.”
Blake Wheeler added an empty-net goal for the Jets (10-9-1), who have won three straight and five of their last six games.
Andrei Loktionov had the lone goal for the slumping Devils (10-6-4), who have only one win in their last six games after a fast start.
The Jets opened the scoring before many of the fans had found their seats. Ladd tied a franchise record for earliest goal when he went around the defence to pick up a bouncing puck and put a backhand past Hedberg just eight seconds into the game.
Noel said his captain has been quietly leading by example all season.
“I think right now our team is certainly driven by him and it shows,”Noel said.“It doesn’t matter whether he scores or doesn’t or gets points, but he’s a hard driving guy and he expects a lot from himself.”
Ladd was quick to share the credit with his teammates, who won at home for the first time in five tries.
“I think everyone has stepped up, not only me,” he said. “We’ve had different guys step up at different times and that’s what you need in this kind of season.”
Loktionov tied the game early in the second period for New Jersey when he streaked down the right wing and snapped a shot between Ondrej Pavelec’s pads.
“It’s unfortunate to put yourself in that hole off the bat,”said Devils coach Pete DeBoer.“But we had enough time to get ourselves back in the game and get the win.
“We created enough chances to score three or four tonight. We just need to put them in.”
The Devils hadn’t played since Sunday, when they lost at home to the Jets, but the extra rest didn’t show early as they managed only five shots in the first period.
“It’s frustrating,”said Devils forward David Clarkson.“We’ve got to find a way to get out of this and start playing in the other team’s zone a little more.”
Neither goaltender was busy, but Pavelec needed to make some difficult saves to keep the Jets in the game. He stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced, including a late stop off the dangerous Ilya Kovalchuk.
The Jets had three power plays in the middle frame, including 56 seconds with a two-man advantage, but couldn’t find any offence. The team has just one power-play goal in its last 11 games.
New Jersey couldn’t score on three power plays of its own.
It took the Jets more than nine minutes to record their first shot of the third period. Hedberg finished with 18 saves.
The Jets wrap up their two-game home stand on Saturday afternoon against the Capitals. The Devils are in Buffalo to face the Sabres on Saturday.
Notes: Devils goalie Martin Brodeur didn’t make the trip to Winnipeg after injuring his back warming up for Sunday’s game against the Jets…Jets trainer Rob Milette and assistant equipment manager Mark Grehan received a standing ovation in recognition of their role aiding defenceman Zach Redmond last week when he was seriously cut by a skate blade…Devils centre Travis Zajac, a Winnipeg native, played his first NHL game in his hometown…Alexei Ponikarovsky was back in Winnipeg after starting the season with the Jets. He played 12 games after signing as a free agent, but was dealt back to his former club.