A game against the Philadelphia Flyers should have been an antidote to the Winnipeg Jets’ scoring ills.
After all, the Jets scored 15 goals on the Flyers in the teams’ first two meetings this season, with Winnipeg winning 9-8 and 6-4. It’s hard to believe the Jets ever scored that many goals considering they have been averaging fewer than two goals a game for the past month.
But there was no goal fest this time at the Wells Fargo Center. The Jets won 2-1 in a shootout Tuesday, giving them their first win in four games and their third straight over the Flyers. But the win still left questions about the Jets lack of scoring.
Winnipeg has scored just two goals in three games but at least they managed to get two points out of this game, giving them 52 and keeping them from falling too far out of contention in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Jets remain in 10th place, four points back of Toronto which holds the final playoff spot.
“It was a great two points,” Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said after the game. “And, we’re glad we found a way to win the game.”
If anything it didn’t look like either team had much interest in scoring when the game began. Neither club got a shot on goal in the opening half of the first period and they managed just 13 shots combined by the end of the period. Passes were missed and checking sloppy as both teams looked more than a little rusty after the all-star break.
Philadelphia finally scored first with Brayden Schenn banging home a loose puck during a Flyers’ power play late in the first period. Winnipeg came back early in the second when Chris Thorburn scored his first of the season on a hard high shot that beat Ilya Bryzgalov on the glove side.
The Jets will be in trouble if they have to rely on Thorburn for scoring. Tuesday’s goal was his first in 60 games and heading into the game he was a minus 10 for the season, highest among all Jets. But he was the picture of happiness afterward, joking that he couldn’t remember the last time he had scored.
“It has been a while. I think I had one in training camp. I had one in practice,” he said with a smile. “It’s such a relief but at the same time it gives me the confidence to know I can do it. I can get a good shot away and give myself a chance to score.”
Thornburn said he had met with Noel who gave him assurances and told him what to concentrate on. “Chris puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Noel said afterward, noting that he had sat Thornburn out a few games ago just so he could watch. “Sometimes it’s healthy just to watch games.”
Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec also came up big for his team, making 27 saves including what looked like a sure goals late in the third by Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Hartnell once again.
One player Winnipeg has been counting on for goals is Bryan Little. He hadn’t scored since Dec. 13 and while he had chances Tuesday, including hitting the post in overtime, he still couldn’t seem to find the net. But he did manage to win the game for the Jets, scoring the only goal in the shootout.
“It felt all game I was getting chances,” Little said afterward. “It just wasn’t going in for me. It wasn’t going my way. It was nice to get that one in the shootout.”
As for the Flyers, they are supposed to be relying on Giroux, who came into the game ranked second in the NHL in points with 55. But instead it was the ageless Jaromir Jagr who seemed to have the most life. Jagr, who turns 40 in a couple of weeks, was coming off a groin injury that had kept him out of eight games this season. He showed no signs of injury Tuesday, getting an assist on one goal, making several tricky moves that baffled the Jets and clanging a long shot off the post that had Pavelec beat.
“Not a very good hockey game. It wasn’t very pretty,” Jagr said after the game.
“[Coach]was upset even after the first [period] I don’t blame him. Neither team played really well. They didn’t play well, either.”
Added Hartnell: “Tomorrow we’ll get back to work...Tonight we played well in spurts.
I was disappointed in our effort.”