WINNIPEG – Blake Wheeler shared the joy Wednesday night.
“I’ve told you guys a million times, I almost get a bigger joy out of seeing other guys score than scoring myself,” he said after putting away the winner at 1:42 of overtime to beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-4.
Earlier, he set up Andrew Ladd’s second goal of the night and Eric Tangradi’s second goal of the season. In all, Wheeler finished the night with his 35th assist and team-leading 24th goal, cementing his position as the Jets’ scoring leader with 59 points.
Evander Kane also scored for Winnipeg.
It was a big night for the Jets as well (32-30-9), as they claimed a little more ground in their uphill climb to the playoffs. They still sit two points behind Dallas and four points behind Phoenix, which now holds the eighth and final wild-card berth.
For Colorado (44-20-6), the loss let the Chicago Blackhawks move past them and claim sole possession of second spot in the Central Division after a 4-0 win over the St. Louis Blues.
Winnipeg’s playoff hopes remain a longshot, given the teams it will face as it closes out the season, but it was a big lift nonetheless to take the season series against Colorado 3-2.
“It was a big win for us, especially for the goals we gave up,” said Ladd. “We’re not that bad of a team. We’ve played some good hockey of late and we haven’t got the results.”
As for his own game, it was also a good night with his 20th and 21st goals of the season.
“First one, we had good transition out of our end and I got the puck and a little space and got a good shot off. And the second one, Wheels made a great play driving down and I found some open space and put the puck on the net again.”
Colorado coach Patrick Roy gave Wheeler credit for his patience in holding the puck and waiting for the right moment to score the winner.
“Both teams had good chances,” said Roy after his second loss in a row. His homecoming to Montreal ended in a 6-3 loss to the Canadiens Tuesday night.
“At the end they made a great play. Wheeler I thought made a really good play and scored a nice goal.”
It was the fourth time out of the five games they’ve played this season that the Jets and Avalanche couldn’t settle it in regulation time.
Ryan O’Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Nick Holden and Cody McLeod scored for Colorado. It also was rookie goaltender Reto Berra’s first start since he was acquired by Colorado from the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline.
Landeskog said Berra deserved credit.
“I think he made some huge saves in the third when we really needed it the most,” said Landeskog, who scored the tying goal for Colorado at the end of the first period to make it 2-2.
“I remember my first game with Colorado, certainly a lot of nerves.”
It didn’t help Winnipeg’s chances that defenceman Zach Bogosian joined the lengthy scratch list, which already included Dustin Byfuglien and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who are listed as day to day.
Replacement Paul Postma was grabbing a cup of coffee when he got word he had to play. He responded with two assists, including one on Wheeler’s overtime goal.
“It’s not too hard to get pumped up in front of this crowd,” he said.
The Avalanche had their own no-shows as Paul Stastny was out after playing in Montreal on Tuesday following a four-game absence due to injury. They also lost forward John Mitchell in Montreal.
But injuries and tough schedules aren’t uncommon at this time of year and no one was using them as an excuse.
“Every team’s playing a tough schedule right now and March and April’s going to be tough for everybody,” said Landeskog.
Notes: Despite the disparity in their NHL rankings, the Jets and Avalanche went into Wednesday’s game with two wins each in their season series, although Colorado had the only win in regulation time. Even the regulation win was decided by one goal.