The Winnipeg Jets almost pulled off another miracle on Saturday but Adam Henrique had other ideas.
The 21-year-old New Jersey Devils rookie scored on a breakaway in overtime Saturday night to pull out a 3-2 overtime win after the Jets came back from a two-goal Devils lead in the third period. It was his second goal of the night and third in his last two games.
Henrique scored just after the Jets survived a Devils’ power play for the first one minute, 12 seconds of overtime after Evander Kane took a hooking penalty late in the third period.
The Jets staged a third-period comeback to force overtime with goals from Mark Flood and Jim Slater. Flood was called up from the Jets’ farm team, the St. John’s IceCaps, three days ago thanks to a series of injuries to the defence. When he put a slap shot behind Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, it was his first NHL goal and came at the relatively advanced age of 27.
While Flood didn’t get a souvenir, he did get the pleasure of scoring on an NHL legend like Brodeur.
“No, I didn’t get the puck,” Flood said ruefully. “Since I’m 27 years old, I guess nobody figured it was my first goal.
“It would have been a lot nicer if we won but it was really neat. It was pretty cool to score it on a guy like Brodeur.”
The loss dropped the Jets’ record on their seven-game road trip to 3-1-1. However, the point from the overtime loss was soothing to a team coping with a severe run of injuries. The list of those on the sidelines grew to six this week.
Added to the missing list on Saturday were centre Nik Antropov (hand) and defenceman Randy Jones (foot). Both were hurt blocking shots in Thursday’s win over the New York Islanders. Jets head coach Claude Noel hopes Antropov will be able to play Sunday against the New York Rangers. Jones is less likely to play although Noel said defenceman Mark Stuart may be able to come back after missing the Islander game.
It was apparent through the first two periods against the Devils that Antropov, the Jets’ leading scorer with 11 points, is the man who drives their offence. He usually plays between Alexander Burmistrov and Evander Kane and it was no coincidence those two youngsters were the Jets’ most noticeable in their last few games.
But without Antropov both Burmistrov and Kane struggled, and the first line of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Kyle Wellwood was unable to pick up the slack. The Devils, long one of the NHL’s best checking teams, kept the clamps on the visitors.
“There was no easy ice,” Jets head coach Claude Noel said. “We couldn’t manufacture any offence for two periods. For us, it was going to be a greasy game and it was.”
The greasiest moment came in overtime just after the Jets killed off Kane’s penalty. Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, a defensive liability all evening, let Henrique have an open lane to the net for a breakaway goal.
“We made a blunder and they put it in the net,” Noel said.
Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec’s work was up to the standard he set in the last three games of this trip but given their offensive woes, the Jets need a shutout to be sure of a point. Pavelec managed to keep the Devils at bay for the first period but asking for a second consecutive shutout when five defencemen are out of the lineup with injuries is a little much.
Patrick Elias opened the scoring for the Devils early in the second period on a nice feed from Dainius Zubrus. Then Henrique made it 2-0 for the hosts when he blew past Byfuglien and forward Kenndal McArdle, the last men back.
However, the never-say-die Jets went to work in the third period. Flood scored first and then Slater rifled his fifth goal of the season with 2:45 left in the period.
Sign of the times? It may be no coincidence that Nordiques Nation, the diehard fans of the old Quebec NHL franchise who travel to games along the east coast, showed up at the Prudential Centre on Saturday. The Devils are in the midst of severe financial woes and Nordiques Nation likes to make its presence felt in the arenas of teams who might have to move.