The Jets’ top forwards found their game in time to get Winnipeg’s playoff hopes off life support, at least for now.
Evander Kane and Bryan Little each scored during a four-goal barrage in the second period and the Jets stunned the surging Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Saturday.
“We are woefully inconsistent,” said coach Claude Noel, who praised the way the Jets played a more focused team game to snap a five-game losing streak.
Before they started their slide in late March, the Jets were in control in the Southeast. Now they’re fighting for their lives.
The Jets (19-19-2) now have 40 points and, depending on what the Washington Capitals did in Florida later Saturday, either sole possession or a tie on points for first in Southeast.
Kane said it’s time Winnipeg’s top lines started making it work.
“Our top players have to be hot and get our team going and I thought we did a good job of that tonight,” said Kane, who had a goal and an assist as the Jets scored four in less than seven minutes in the second period.
“We had to win this game to give ourselves a shot to even make the playoffs. Our season’s on the line right now.”
Grant Clitsome and Kyle Wellwood scored Winnipeg’s other goals, while Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler, with two, picked up assists Saturday.
Noel says Kane brings a lot to the table.
“He can single handedly do some damage, cause he has speed and (can) get on you and he plays physical and he’s got a good shot,” he said.
“When he plays like that, it’s the will that drives not only him but others around (him).”
Ruslan Fedotenko scored the lone goal for the Flyers (17-18-3), who came into the game riding a four-game winning streak.
“They played like they wanted it the last 40 minutes,” said Flyers’ Scott Hartnell.
“The last four games we played 60 minutes and tonight we didn’t.”
Wayne Simmonds agreed.
“I just think we shut it down for the second period. It wasn’t the defence, it wasn’t the goaltending, it was everybody.”
It certainly didn’t look good for the Jets after the first period, when they were outshot 13-4.
Fedotenko’s long wrist shot from near the blue-line beat Pavelec’s glove just past the 11-minute mark. The Jets didn’t get off a shot in the final 15 minutes of the period.
But Winnipeg turned the tables in the second as they pounded the Philadelphia net, finally driving it home when Little fed Clitsome in close and he snapped it past Ilya Bryzgalov at 12:38.
Bryzgalov had no time to recover when Kane fed Wellwood from behind the Philadelphia net and he made it 2-1 with a quick wrister 27 seconds later.
It was Kane’s turn less than two minutes later when he buried a loose puck after Mike Santorelli was stymied on a wraparound. He still picked up his first point as a Jet on an assist since he was picked up on waivers Wednesday.
Little capped things off when he took off on a breakaway and found the corner with less than a minute left in the period.
“That first one kind of gave us momentum and we were flying from there,” he said.
“To get that fourth one, it was a bit of a cushion for us and I thought we did a good job protecting it.”
After Bryzgalov allowed four goals on 16 shots the Flyers pulled their shellshocked netminder in the third and put in backup Steve Mason, who made his debut since coming to Philadelphia at the trade deadline. He stopped all nine shots he faced.
The Jets were also able to shut down the Flyers power play, one of the hottest in the NHL right now.
The Jets play six of their final eight games of the regular season at home but many of their rivals, such as Washington, have games in hand.
But the coach said the Jets as a whole played a better game.
“It’s funny, but when you focus on the team game and you focus on the accomplishment of winning, how the scoring looks after itself and the individual scoring takes care of itself.”
He said they also benefited once again from Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 30 of 31 shots he faced.
Notes: Winnipeg’s Zach Redmond, back but not playing yet after as month recovering from a life-threatening cut in practice to an artery in his leg, received a standing ovation.