By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets battled late to steal a 3-1 pre-season victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday night in the franchise’s second game in front of a hometown crowd at the MTS Centre.
Trailing 1-0 midway through the third period, third-year winger Evander Kane drove the crease and banged home a cross-ice pass from rookie Patrice Cormier on the power play to tie the game and explode a pent-up capacity crowd.
The marker followed a Jamie McBain high stick that caught Jets captain Andrew Ladd, resulting in a double minor.
Winnipeg rolled with the momentum, capturing the lead 56-seconds later when Blake Wheeler beat Carolina net-minder Brian Boucher from the slot. Wheeler’s first pre-season goal of 2011 would prove to be the game winner.
“I thought we got off to a bit of a slow start,” said Kane. “But we really pushed in the third period and were able to come back as a team and pot a few goals.”
The Jets dominated the shot count all night, peppering Boucher with 37. But beyond Kane’s opening goal for Winnipeg, the power play struggled to produce quality chances as head coach Claude Noel juggled his lines a couple times — experimenting with different combinations.
“Did I see more than the last game?” asked Noel. “Not really. Was I expecting more? Maybe. I know (the players) wanted to do better than the game before.”
The Jets were shutout by the ‘Canes 4-0 Sunday evening in a (relatively) neutral site game — in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I felt our team got stronger (throughout the night),” added Noel. “I tried to un-glue some things and get some things going.”
Winnipeg gave 35-year-old backup goaltender Chris Mason the start and he held his team in when their offence was struggling, stopping 17-of-18 shots, with a good amount coming off quality Hurricane chances.
Carolina called a timeout and pulled Boucher with just over a minute to play, leading to Kane adding an empty-netter — his third of the pre-season — with 32-seconds remaining. He was named the game’s first star.
“It was everything I expected and more,” added Kane on his first game in front the near deafening Winnipeg fans. “I’m really looking forward to the next chance I get to play.”
Jets fans should get used to the other ‘Canes as well, as Winnipeg will face their Southeast Division rivals from Carolina a total of six times during the regular season.