WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets are off to an auspicious start to their eight-game home stand.
Bryan Little scored twice in the third period to help the Jets beat the Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins 4-2 on Friday night.
“To beat a team like Boston, these points mean a lot to us in the standings and we need to keep winning these games at home,” said Little.
Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists for the Jets (28-26-6), who are two points back of Toronto for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Alexander Burmistrov also scored for Winnipeg.
Coming off a shootout victory in Minnesota on Thursday night, the Jets won games on consecutive nights for the first time in 10 tries this season.
Winnipeg coach Claude Noel says he’s happy to no longer have to address why his team couldn’t close out back-to-backs.
“It ends the back-to-back (thing) and I’m sorry to say I won’t have to answer that question again, thank you very much,” Noel said.
Jordan Caron and David Krejci scored for Boston (35-19-2).
The first period saw Boston pepper Ondrej Pavelec, the Winnipeg netminder made key save after key save, even though the Jets were outskated, outchecked and outshot 13-4.
“We knew they were coming hard in the first period,” said Pavelec. “They didn’t have a good first period last game in Montreal so we knew they were going to come strong and they did and we found a way to handle it.”
Noel says his goalies, including backup Chris Mason who started against the Wild, deserved most of the credit for the two straight wins.
“Both goalies have made this contribution the last couple of games in big moments,” he said.
“When you’re going to win games like this you’re going to need timely goals and timely saves and that’s what we got.”
It was Burmistrov who scored first with Winnipeg’s fifth shot of the game less than two minutes into the second. He fired a clean wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Boston’s Tukka Rask.
But less that five minutes later Caron returned the favour and sent one high into the Winnipeg net that Pavelec never touched.
Winnipeg shut the Bruins down on their first power-play opportunity on an elbowing call against Evander Kane in the second. The Bruins didn’t get off a shot.
Then half a minute into full-strength Wheeler slammed home a drop pass from Dustin Byfuglien to put the Jets ahead again 2-1.
It was a starkly different period for Boston, with Winnipeg holding a 9-8 edge on shots and no longer struggling to get the puck out of their zone.
But less than a minute into the third, Krejci picked up a pass from Tyler Seguin in front of the Winnipeg net, as Pavelec went down and the puck went up and in.
Krejci says a couple of costly mistakes gave the Jets the scoring chances they needed.
“We were ready for it,” said Krejci. “I think we had a really good first period. We wanted to come out the same in the second period and we didn’t.”
Little scored the go-ahead goal at 4:16 of third and gave Winnipeg some insurance with his second two minutes later. Both goals were assisted by Wheeler.
“Wheeler played like he wasn’t going to be denied in this game,” said Noel. “He certainly looks like a top-six forward to me.”
Winnipeg had a brief 4-on-3 in the third but also failed to connect. Both teams went 0-2 on power-play chances.