WINNIPEG – With their top line scoring in bunches and their power play finally showing signs of life, the Winnipeg Jets may be peaking at the right time.
The Jets rolled to a 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night—their third straight victory, and second in as many tries—to open a crucial eight-game home stand.
The recently reunited top line of Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd—which was split up during the first half of the season—combined for three goals (two of them by Little) and five assists.
“I think our whole line is playing really well,” said Wheeler, who had four assists. “When we were put together after the all-star break we made a conscious effort to make this thing work similar to how we did last year in Atlanta.”
Meanwhile, the Jets (29-26-6) scored a pair of power-play goals in the third period after scoring only twice with the extra attacker in their previous 12 games.
“It’s nice to finally see us put a few pucks in the net and get confidence,” said Ladd, whose had an assist to go along with his power-play goal. “It’s going to be such a big thing going forward here. The power play has to be here and hasn’t been, for the last two weeks, effective at all.”
Ondrej Pavelec made 31 saves for Winnipeg, including 19 in the second period. Semyon Varlamov stopped 20 of 25 shots for the Avalanche (29-27-4).
After struggling to score goals for most of 2012, the Jets have now put four or more pucks in the net in four of their last five games.
“We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to score goals, but we were patient, we waited for chances and then we scored,” said Pavelec, adding that he feels much less pressure when his teammates are scoring more than one goal a night.
The win pulled the Jets into an eighth-place tie in the Eastern Conference with Toronto and within one point of Southeast Division-leading Florida. Colorado is tied with Dallas for 10th in the West.
“Overall we just weren’t good enough in all areas of the game,” said Avalanche coach Joe Sacco. “I don’t think we had everybody here on deck tonight. In a big game like that, I would have expected a little bit more intensity from more guys.”
Winnipeg took control of the game with goals by Evander Kane and Little early in the second period.
Kane beat Varlamov with a quick backhander through traffic from the left circle for his team-leading 22nd goal.
Little was the recipient of a gift from defenceman Erik Johnson, whose blind clearing attempt gave the Winnipeg centre a wide-open net to shoot at for his 17th goal of the season at 3:30.
“It’s a big loss this time of the year,” said Colorado forward Matt Duchene, who returned to the lineup after missing 20 games with a knee injury. “I think we carried the play in the second period. But they’re a great team.”
Rookie Gabriel Landeskog scored the lone Colorado goal when he beat Pavelec low to the blocker side for his 15th of the season on his third good scoring chance of a second-period power play.
But the Jets restored their two-goal lead only 46 seconds later when Kane’s high shot ricocheted off the glass and Kyle Wellwood jammed it into the Colorado net.
The Jets opened things up in the third period with the power-play goals by Ladd and Little
“The third I thought we played real well,” said Jets coach Claude Noel. “We got some good performances from a lot of guys and our power play came to life, which was good.”
Notes: Forward Eric Fehr returned to the Winnipeg lineup after being a healthy scratch for the last four games. Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian sat out his third consecutive game with an upper-body injury. … Avalanche forward Matt Duchene returned to the lineup after missing 20 games with a knee injury.