By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — The goals are starting to come in bunches for the Winnipeg Jets, and they continued their torrid pace Sunday night with a 5-1 thumping of the Colorado Avalanche at MTS Centre.
The third straight victory for the 29-26-6 Jets — in which they have averaged four goals per game — places them into a tie for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot with 64 points. It also puts them on the heels of the Southeast Division leading Panthers (65 points) who lost their third straight game Sunday night in a 2-0 shutout at the hands of Teemu Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks.
Watch post-game reaction:
“I wouldn’t say we’re on fire but they’re going in,” head coach Claude Noel said of the team’s recent scoring turnaround. “Guys are playing well, and (our) top players are performing.”
The one “top player” who has stood out the most as of late is Bryan Little, who has now scored four goals in the Jets’ last four periods.
“That’s the way it’s gone this year, scoring in bunches,” said Little, who recorded his fourth two-goal game of the season on Sunday. “Once you get one or a couple it seems like you get that confidence back when you get your scoring chances.
Much of Little’s success has come courtesy of Winnipeg’s leading scorer, Blake Wheeler, who has racked up 10 points in his last five games (1G, 9A), including a career-high four assists Sunday against Colorado.
“I think our whole line is playing really well,” said Wheeler of linemates Little and Andrew Ladd. “When we were put (back) together after the All-Star break we made a conscious effort to try to make this thing work similar to how we did last year in Atlanta. We’re trying to win puck battles and keep things simple and it’s turning into some good chances for us, and it’s translated into some big goals for our line.”
Meanwhile, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec put together another solid 31-save performance, including a 19-save second period where the Avalanche enjoyed three power plays and created 9 scoring chances.
“I don’t get real nervous watching him in the net,” said Noel of his 24-year-old Czech backstop. “He certainly gives me a real sense of calm and composure and confidence. He looks like he’s under control. It looks like the puck is going half speed. He’s in a good place right now.”
High praise of his most valuable asset heading into a playoff race with 21 games remaining.
The Jets continue their extended homestand Tuesday night against the 32-19-7 Philadelphia Flyers. Before heading back out on the road the second week of March, Winnipeg hosts games against Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Edmonton, Florida, and Buffalo.
ChrisD.ca video/Darrin Bauming