WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets aren’t going to let up now.
Winnipeg jumped from ninth to third in the Eastern Conference on Thursday with a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Captain Andrew Ladd had two goals and one assist as the Jets (30-26-7) vaulted into top spot in the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference with 67 points.
“We understand we have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Ladd. “There’s teams that have games in hand on us. We’re going to have to keep playing the way we are and keep winning.”
Jets forward Blake Wheeler agreed with his captain.
“We can’t sit back and take a photo and say, ‘Hey, we’re all set,'” said Wheeler, who had two assists. “It’s going to take this kind of hockey for the next 19 games to make the playoffs.
“If we let our foot off the gas even one bit, we’re not going to make.”
Tanner Glass and Dustin Byfuglien also scored for the Jets, whose leap up the standings was helped by Toronto’s loss (65 points) to San Jose and Minnesota’s shootout win over Florida (66 points) on Thursday.
Byfuglien added an assist.
“I think we’re well aware of where we’ve come from and what it’s going to take to continue this,” said Wheeler.
Steven Stamkos recorded his 43rd goal of the season and added a pair of assists for Tampa (27-27-6). Teddy Purcell and Martin St. Louis also scored for the Lightning in the third period. Purcell had two assists.
The Lightning scored three goals in the third period, two on the power play, but still had their three-game winning streak snapped.
Head coach Claude Noel said he wasn’t going to focus on those late goals because the Jets showed they could bounce back after a 5-4 overtime loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday.
He was happy where his team is in the standings, but noted other clubs have games in hand and who knows how long they’ll stay above the playoff line.
“We’re not going to separate our shoulders being first in the division,” Noel said, referring to avoiding too many pats on the back.
Winnipeg has played more games than any of its Southeast Division opponents, including four more than Florida.
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec stopped 22 shots.
Mathieu Garon started in net for Tampa Bay, but was replaced by Dwayne Roloson at 2:48 of the second after giving up his fourth goal on 18 shots. Roloson stopped all 16 shots he faced.
Ladd started the scoring at 7:11 of the first period when he took a pass from Bryan Little in the high slot and put a shot above Garon’s blocker.
It was Ladd’s 20th goal of the season and extended his points’ streak to four games with four goals and two assists.
Glass made it 2-0 for Winnipeg at 14:59 of the first when he poked the puck in during a scramble in front of Garon. It was Glass’s career-high fifth goal of the season. He had four in 2009-10.
A pair of goals 72 seconds apart in the second period by Ladd and Byfuglien widened the gap 4-0 and sent Garon to the bench.
“They came out a lot more desperate than we did, that’s for sure,” St. Louis said. “We’re down two, and then we start the second in the box and they scored. They got four goals and that is tough to come back from.”
Ladd tipped in Evander Kane’s wristshot from the top of the circle at 1:36 while Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman in the penalty box for delay of game.
Byfuglien’s shot from the point at 2:48 was scored nine seconds after Tampa’s Ryan Malone was sent to the box for interference.
Stamkos nixed the shutout after Kane was called for slashing. It was Tampa’s fourth power-play opportunity of the night.
Winnipeg was 2-for-3 with the man advantage and Tampa 2-5.
Stamkos got a backhand pass from Malone at 11:00 and has goals in each of his past four games. Purcell scored his goal at 19:06 and St. Louis scored from a sharp angle on the power play with nine seconds left.
Wheeler assisted one Ladd and Byfuglien’s goals and is riding a five-game points streak with one goal and 10 assists.
It was the fourth meeting between the teams this season, with two more to come. Winnipeg is 3-1 in the season series so far.
“I guess we are allergic to this place,” Tampa coach Guy Boucher said of the MTS Centre.
“We have had our worst two games of the year here. We didn’t start very well and they started strong. We had two great scoring chances right off the bat, one an empty net…I think we looked tight in the first and the second period.”
Notes: Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian missed his fifth straight game (upper body). Tampa was without Vincent Lecavalier, who injured a hand last Saturday … Winnipeg hosts St. Louis Saturday afternoon. The Lightning play in Pittsburgh on Saturday.