They booed Shane Doan loudly and every other Phoenix Coyote almost as much at the MTS Centre Thursday night, And then they got to cheer for the Jets, who beat the Coyotes 1-0, and for goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who made 33 saves to get his second shutout of the season. For many fans this was sweet revenge. Everyone here remembers all too well that Phoenix was the place the old Jets fled to in 1996 because Winnipeg supposedly wasn’t capable of hanging on to an NHL franchise. With the tables now turned and Phoenix the league’s weakest link, at least ownership-wise, it was chance for fans to take out 15 years of frustrations. And they did.
Boos rained down every time a Coyotes player touched the puck, particularly Doan, who many Winnipeggers believe dissed the city last year when there was talk the Coyotes could move to Manitoba. (Doan insists he never said anything bad about Winnipeg, he just didn’t want to leave Phoenix.) Even after the announcer urged the crowd to recognize Doan, who once played for the old Jets, the crowd managed a token cheer and then kept right on booing. The Jets used all that energy and came out strong Thursday. It was a far cry from the team’s weak first-period performance against Ottawa two days ago that helped cost them the game. This time they dominated play early, getting the best scoring chances, taking just one penalty and generally pushing the Coyotes around the ice. It paid off. Less than seven minutes into the game, Bryan Little poked in a rebound after a strong two-man rush with Evander Kane that flustered Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith. Phoenix didn’t do itself any favours early on, with seven giveaways in the first, compared to three for the Jets, and many sloppy passes that ended up on Jets sticks. Pavelec also made at least three superb saves, something he did not do on Tuesday.
But this was the Coyotes, a team that for all its ownership woes came into the game ranked third in the Western Conference. The Coyotes put up more of a fight in the second period, coming at Pavelec in waves. But the Winnipeg goalie did more than hold on, making 16 saves in the period and allowing the Jets to hang on to their slim lead. Winnipeg didn’t sit back. The Jets took the play to the Coyotes as well, especially some strong rushes by Kane and Little, and Smith also had to make several smart saves. For Winnipeg, getting a lead has been relatively easy lately; keeping it has not. The Jets gave up a two-goal lead in Boston last weekend and lost. Then they gave up two leads against Ottawa and lost. So heading into the third period the pressure was on, especially since coming into the game Winnipeg had been outscored 28-19 in the third. But they kept up the pressure and this time it was the opponent, Phoenix, who could not keep up. Coyotes defenceman Derek Morris helped, giving up the puck to Chris Thorburn who nearly scored and then hooking Kane to give the Jets a power play late in the period. The Coyotes came close, with the puck trickling past Pavelec at one point and just barely heading wide of the goal. The Jets go to 10-11-4 on the season and Phoenix is now 13-8-3. The Jets continue this long homestand Saturday with a game against New Jersey and then 10 more at home this month.
LAST WINNIPEG GOAL BEFORE MOVING TO PHOENIX: http://youtu.be/5JeBdNF8fqw