WINNIPEG – Confidence is starting to filter through the Winnipeg Jets and centre Bryan Little figures they’ll ride it as long as they can.
Little scored a pair of goals early in the first period on Saturday afternoon to power the Jets to a 6-4 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The victory was the Jets’ third straight on home ice against Eastern Conference opponents after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals earlier in the week.
Little, who notched his third and fourth goals of the season before the eight-minute mark, said the Jets are feeling pretty good about themselves right now.
“Overall, this was a good homestand for us,”he said.“We played three tough teams and got three wins, so it’s great.
“I think (confidence) is huge for us. It just kept building, starting with that first game (against Tampa). These were not easy teams. These are teams that could give us some real trouble. But we’re playing simple…we’re outworking teams.”
Scott Hartnell and Matt Read both scored twice for Philadelphia (11-5-3), which hasn’t lost in regulation time in eight games and came into Winnipeg riding a three-game win streak.
Winnipeg led 5-1 midway through the second period and then held on to improve to 8-9-3.
The Jets’ special teams had a big impact on the game. Little, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien each had a power-play goal, while Slater added a short-handed goal.
Byfuglien also had a pair of assists.
“We needed that fast start, we got those power plays and took advantage,”Byfuglien said.“Winning is everything. It’s fun here. We’re building off these fans. It’s something we’ve done all year.”
Little gave the hosts an early lead with back-to-back goals just over two minutes apart.
He scored a power-play goal just over four minutes into the game when he slapped in a rebound off a big blast from the point by Byfuglien. His second goal came on a shot through the legs of Flyers’ starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky at the 7:00 mark.
Ladd made it 3-0 midway through the period when he took a feed from Kyle Wellwood and scored his sixth of the year.
Hartnell scored his first of the game when he tipped a shot over the shoulder of Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec with the Jets shorthanded to get the Flyers on the board at 13:27.
Slater added to Winnipeg’s lead with his short-handed goal early in the second period to make it 4-1.
The Flyers then took a pair of minor penalties to give the Jets a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes. Byfuglien made them pay, slipping a shot past Bobrovsky from a sharp angle to give the Jets a 5-1 lead.
Almost immediately, Jets’ fans began chanting “We want Ilya, we want Ilya,” hoping that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette would substitute goalie Ilya Bryzgalov for Bobrovsky.
Bryzgalov gave up four goals on 10 shots in Winnipeg’s 9-8 road victory over the Flyers on Oct. 28.
The Russian goaltender also made some comments about the city of Winnipeg last spring when he was with the Phoenix Coyotes, saying publicly he would not move to the Manitoba capital if the franchise moved from the desert.
Flyers’ captain Chris Pronger said some ill-advised penalties, particularly early in the game, was the club’s undoing.
“Against a team like that, that’s playing with confidence and moving the puck around, you’re going to get behind,” he said. “We let them get off to a great start and they kind of coasted in from there.
“When you’re not ready to compete and play hard and do all the little things, we let them skate around and do what they wanted to do and that’s going to be the result, that first 10 minutes.”
Hartnell scored his second power-play goal of the game with just under four minutes left in the second.
Read scored twice for the Flyers in the third period to make things interesting, but the Jets held on. Hartnell assisted on both goals for a four-point afternoon.
Pavelec stopped 27 of 31 shots fired his way.
“We have to be smarter (in the third period…but two points is two points,”he said.“It shows us we can play against those teams. (The Flyers) are one of the best teams in the NHL and we know if we play our style of hockey, we can beat them.”
Winnipeg fans didn’t get to see Jaromir Jagr. The 39-year-old forward did not make the trip after suffering a groin injury against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night.
Jets’ forward Eric Fehr, a product of Winkler, Man., made his season debut after missing the first 19 games of the season. Fehr, who was recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, was dealt from the Washington Capitals to the Jets in July for forward Danick Paquette and a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft.
Fehr scored 10 goals and added 10 assists in 52 games with the Capitals last year.