The Jets' recently assembled line of left wing Drew Stafford, center Mark Scheifele and right wing Blake Wheeler continued its offensive production in a 3-0 win against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
Scheifele scored and had an assist, Stafford had two assists, and Wheeler assisted on Scheifele's goal. The line has seven goals and nine assists in the past four games, easing the loss of Little, their top-line center who has an upper-body injury.
Wheeler said, "I think we're all on the same page. Our line, we go out there, and we're just trying to use our speed to be effective defensively, and it is going to create offense for us."
Winnipeg's fourth win in a row moved the Jets (37-23-12) four points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Winnipeg trails the Minnesota Wild, who hold the first wild card, by one point.
Winnipeg ended a seven-game losing streak against Washington that dated to March 2, 2013.
The Jets are 11-2-2 in their past 15 home games and swept a three-game homestand.
"We have the belief," Stafford said. "We're not playing for anyone else except for the fans and ourselves in [the dressing room]. We believe in ourselves and know that we can compete with anyone out there when we're playing our game."
"We didn't give [Ovechkin] space. Ovechkin and those guys can hurt you," Pavelec said. "We stayed with them and didn't give them space. We backchecked really well and always had support in our zone, and that is the result: no goals."
The loss ended the Capitals' three-game winning streak. Washington (39-24-10) holds the first wild card from the Eastern Conference.
"When they had to block a shot, they did. When they had to box out and defend, they did. Sometimes it's not always pretty, but they got it done."
Defenseman Mark Stuart's second goal of the season, first in 59 games, provided a 1-0 lead 11:46 into the first period. Scheifele's second-period goal put the Jets up 2-0 at 10:48. Adam Lowry's empty-net goal with 1:22 left finished the scoring.
Pavelec, who made 28 saves, started for the fourth consecutive game, the first time he has done so since Nov. 4-11. He has stopped 113 of 117 shots in the winning streak.
"Pavelec played unbelievable, and that's what it takes to shut down high-powered guys like that," Scheifele said. "You have got to do it by committee, and we did a great job of that tonight."
Washington goaltender Braden Holtby made his 15th consecutive start and made 21saves.
Stuart scored his first goal since Oct. 9 against the Arizona Coyotes. Stafford and Scheifele worked the puck into the low slot, where Stuart slipped a shot under Holtby at 11:46.
Stafford has six goals and seven assists in 16 games since the Jets acquired him from the Buffalo Sabres in a trade Feb. 11.
"[Stafford] makes great reads," Maurice said. "He does some really, really good things with the puck from the top of the circles on down. He has a really good idea of when [the puck] just needs to go to the net … or when to pull up and make a play. Because [Scheifele and Wheeler] are so quick, they can react off that."
Scheifele's 13th goal tied his NHL high, set last season. Wheeler grabbed Washington defenseman John Carlson's turnover deep in the offensive zone and passed to Scheifele in the slot. His snap shot hit the post, but he slid the rebound past Holtby at 10:48.
"I think [Scheifele] is skating really well right now," Wheeler said. "I think he is playing with a lot of confidence. When you have a center that is moving his feet and moving the puck well, it really makes your line go well. I think [Stafford] on the other side, he is just really strong on the puck."
The Capitals are off until Thursday, when they host the New Jersey Devils. Trotz said he plans to use the time to fine-tune for the final nine games of the regular season.
"I think it's going to be a little bit of a training camp for us in the sense of, let's just re-evaluate every part of our game and think about things that are going to happen," Trotz said. "I think that if we get in (to the playoffs), there are a lot of teams that don't want to play us."
"I think the main thing we have to focus on [during the break] is to keep the businesslike attitude," Holtby said. "You get a break like that, it's pretty easy to sit back and just relax. I think we have to keep working. We're not where we want [to be] yet with our goal. We really need to use [the remaining nine games] to our advantage, and [the break is] crucial to keep our minds in the right place."
The Jets have not reached the playoffs since 2007, when the franchise was the Atlanta Thrashers.
"I think we have an identity now," Wheeler said. "In the past, that was a little bit of an issue. We always worked hard. That was never a problem. But it was just [a matter] of working hard in the right areas and [everyone] doing it at the same time with the same goal in mind."