EditorsNote: fixes “Wood” in fifth graf
Jets’ home cooking burns Devils
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Bryan Little didn’t end up on the scoresheet Tuesday night but his role in the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils was unmistakable.
After missing all but four shifts this season and the last 25 games of last year, the veteran center provided not only a critical emotional boost to his teammates but also won valuable face-offs down the stretch and ate up valuable minutes on both the power play and penalty kill.
“Right from the start of the game he looked comfortable and in the game,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “We weren’t trying to protect him or his ice time. Everybody got a lift (from his return). His coach was pretty happy. Centers and defensemen are so hard to replace.”
Rookie Patrik Laine scored the game-winner in early the third period -- he continues to lead all rookie goal scorers with 13 -- and Connor Hellebuyck continued to have the hot hand in the Jets net, stopping 23 shots.
The Jets also got goals from center Mark Scheifele -- also his 13th -- and right winger Blake Wheeler -- his eighth -- while the Devils countered with left winger Miles Wood with his first career NHL marker and right winger Nick Lappin with his fourth of the season.
The win improved the Jets record to 11-12-2 for 24 points while the Devils fell to 10-7-5 for 25 points. The Jets outshot the Devils 29-25.
Little had the third-most ice time of any Jets forward at 20:09, a number that was higher than anticipated after left winger Marko Dano went down with an eye injury in the first period. (He is listed as day-to-day but it’s believed the injury was just around his eye, not the eyeball itself.)
”I felt a little better than I thought I was going to just getting used to the speed,“ Little said. ”The first few shifts, I felt like I let all my energy out. I was really excited and anxious to get playing.
I felt unbelievable those first few shifts. I got a little more tired as the game went on. I didn’t think I’d play as much as I did tonight but we had a guy down,” he said.
“I told my linemates, (Wheeler) and (left winger Drew Stafford) to talk to me as much as they could tonight (because) I might be a step or two behind They helped me out a lot. I had a couple of brain farts out there but it didn’t lead to anything.”
Laine credited a little dressing room advice before the third period for helping him score his first goal in seven games. His blast picked the absolute top corner over Cory Schneider’s blocker side.
“People told me in the second intermission that I should try blocker (side). It was the first shot, blocker and it goes in. I was obviously relieved. It was a good goal. I had some pretty good scoring chances in the second period and I just couldn’t score. It was an amazing feeling to get that goal and help my team to win. I knew that I was playing well, even if I don’t score in this game, I think I played well. It was a game-winning goal so it was huge,” he said.
Schneider said Laine has a “heck of a shot.”
“It might have ramped off my defenseman’s stick there. It’s just kind of how it has been going lately. I felt I had a beat on it and it just changed direction slightly. That’s all it takes for me right now. It’s just something that I have to work through,” he said.
Wood’s night was memorable in more ways than one. In addition to his first goal, he also had his first penalty shot. He caught Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien pinching on a second period power play and was slashed by defenseman Josh Morrissey on the ensuing breakaway, causing him to lose an edge.
Wood, who was playing in his third career game, fanned on a backhand deke attempt, much to the delight of Jets fans.
“It was cool to hear the crowd boo me all the way down. It’s something I’ll never forget,” he said.
The Jets power play continued to struggle, going scoreless in five attempts, including more than 90 seconds with a two-man advantage in the second period. They have scored just one goal with the man advantage in the last seven games. The Devils didn’t fare any better, failing to light the lamp in four attempts.
On the bright side for the home team, the Jets are 8-0-0 when entering the third period with the lead.
NOTES: Devils LW Mike Cammalleri was the NHL’s second star of the week with a league-high four goals and four assists. ... The Jets lead the NHL with 142 power-play shots but they have only scored one goal with the man advantage in their last six games. ... In the press box for the Devils were LW Taylor Hall, RW Beau Bennett, C Reid Boucher and D Yohann Auvitu. Joining them from the Jets were C Alex Burmistrov and D Julian Melchiori.