By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets continue to roll, earning their fourth consecutive win Friday night — 4-2 over their Southeast Division opponents from Carolina.
The Hurricanes appeared to be on their heels early and the Jets took advantage, grabbing a two-goal lead in the game’s opening five minutes. Just 34-seconds in, Dustin Byfuglien notched his sixth of the year from behind the net, banking it in off Carolina goaltender Cam Ward’s backside.
Watch post-game reaction:
“A sharp, intelligent play on his part,” said bench boss Claude Noel.
“You might be asking what he’s doing behind the net, but that’s OK. That’s how he plays sometimes — defending both nets,” added a sardonic Noel to a clearly amused media room.
Despite the early two-goal margin via Byfuglien and Evander Kane markers, Noel believes his team’s advantage rested on his goaltender Chris Mason, who made his first start in two weeks.
“I thought the turning point of the game really was Mason. He made the breakaway save at 2-0, and then he stopped another one in the second period on another partial breakaway. I thought those were the big saves that helped us.”
“His will to compete is good, and it’s infectious.”
Mason earned his third victory of the season, stopping 23 Hurricane shots, including a rush of chances in the third.
“To make those saves is a great opportunity for myself to try and help the guys,” said the 35-year-old, 10-year NHL veteran. “When you don’t get the ice time on a constant basis you always have to deal with those jitters.”
“This game is over though, and we just have to keep building. I think we’re starting to understand what makes us successful, and understanding the right way to play hockey.”
The right way was evident on Friday, as the Jets rattled off shot after shot, and opportunity after opportunity, outshooting the Hurricanes 19-7 in the first period, and 12-8 in the second, forcing Carolina to pull Cam Ward in favour of rookie Mike Murphy after Winnipeg’s second power play goal.
The Jets went 2-for-4 with the man-advantage, on goals from Tim Stapleton and Bryan Little.
While the win puts Winnipeg in ninth in the East, and just a single point out of a playoff spot, their challenges continue. The team jet-setted immediately after the game to take on the always dangerous 17-9-1 Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night.
ChrisD.ca video/Darrin Bauming