WINNIPEG – Call Saturday a day for sports comebacks in Winnipeg's home teams.
The city's first football-hockey doubleheader in more than 20 years saw the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers wipe away a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit and pull out a late win over rival Montreal. Then some of those same fans taking in the football game headed down Portage Avenue to the MTS Centre, where they would see the Winnipeg Jets deliver the city's second rally of the day.
The Jets used a four-goal outburst in a span of 7:32 bridging the first and second periods to wrestle away a lead from the Carolina Hurricanes and end a two-game winless streak with a 5-3 victory. Winnipeg used its struggling power play to strike twice on six attempts, with both of the goals erasing an early Carolina lead. The loss for Carolina wrapped up a four-game road stretch that ended 2-1-1.
Goaltender Chris Mason relieved starter Ondrej Pavelec after the Hurricanes beat Pavelec twice on their first five shots in the opening six minutes. Mason went the rest of the way and stopped 18 of 19 Carolina shots.
"Expect the unexpected, I guess," Mason said of entering the game in relief. "It is tough, but it is part of the job."
Jets coach Claude Noel tends to be patient with his goaltenders, but opted to pull Pavelec early.
"It just needed to be done," Noel explained. "It just wasn't going. It was early, but you just have to go on your instinct, and that was my instinct. [Mason] competes hard. He battles hard. He gives you what he has got. He is a real battler. He did a great job for us."
Fellow veteran Brian Boucher gave Cam Ward a night off in net for Carolina, but allowed five goals on 24 Winnipeg shots.
"I don't think anything was going for him tonight," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said of Boucher. "We didn't do him any favors."
Both clubs began the evening with issues to resolve. After squandering a 2-0 lead on Friday night to the St. Louis Blues and losing 3-2 in overtime, the Hurricanes chose to sleep off Friday night's loss after an early-morning arrival in Winnipeg.
The Jets, who lost 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, shook up three of their four forward lines before meeting the Hurricanes. Most notably, Kyle Wellwood joined Winnipeg's top line, swapping spots on the right wing with Blake Wheeler. But unhappy with his club's start against Carolina, Noel continued to tinker with his lines.
For a team that would go on to manage just 12 shots through two periods, the Hurricanes started impressively. Carolina's line of Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Chad LaRose tormented the Jets early. Jokinen notched his second goal of the season, jabbing at a puck that Pavelec thought he had frozen until nudging it over the goal line at 4:40.
Skinner then collected his third goal of the season fewer than two minutes after Jokinen's tally when he crashed the Winnipeg net and pushed another loose puck past Pavelec at 6:43.
But after Mason entered the game, Carolina penalty trouble allowed the home club to slip back into the contest. The Hurricanes took four first-period minor penalties in a span of 11:02 that allowed Winnipeg to wrestle away the game's momentum.
Burmistrov sliced the Carolina lead in half on the Jets' second power play. Boucher kicked out a long rebound of Zach Bogosian's point shot to Burmistrov below the right circle. Burmistrov settled the puck and ripped an off-wing shot under the cross bar for his second goal.
Carolina finally pushed its luck too far against a Winnipeg team that entered the game ranked 28th in the League on the power play. Carolina's lead disappeared with two seconds to play in the first period after Alexei Ponikarovsky's elbowing minor. Wellwood moved into the edge of the Carolina crease and shoveled the rebound off the stick of Nikolai Antropov past Boucher.
"I think it was big mentally for them," Skinner said of the late Winnipeg goal. "At the same time, you have to be mentally tougher than we were. Come in this room and regroup. We can't let that sort of momentum seep into how we're feeling."
A Winnipeg club that began the game with just 11 goals in six games struck for two second-period goals in a 1:38 span. Jim Slater's right-circle shot made it a 3-2 Winnipeg lead before Andrew Ladd skipped a bouncing shot past Boucher for a two-goal advantage. Moments later, Antropov's work along the boards added to the home lead when he pushed aside LaRose for a loose puck behind the Carolina net. Antropov fed a pass to Evander Kane, who converted the Jets' third goal in just 3:31 from just outside Boucher’s crease for a 5-2 lead.
Tuomo Ruutu made it 5-3 with his second goal of the season with just over 11 minutes remaining in the third period. Carolina had four power plays in the final period, including separate 5-on-3 advantages for a combined 1:50 late in the period.
But Winnipeg's penalty kill held firm and closed out the Hurricanes. Mason earned himself cheers late. Eric Staal broke through the Winnipeg slot on a power play and ripped a centering feed low that Mason stopped with his left pad. During another Carolina push, Mason sprawled across the crease to glove a loose rebound.
"I thought we did a really nice job," Noel said of shutting down Carolina's late rally. "There was a real urgency to win the game, which is what we needed to win the game."