WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets are turning the cozy environs of the MTS Centre into a genuine home-ice advantage.
Another loud sellout crowd of 15,004 watched the Jets rip the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers 6-4 on Saturday afternoon, fending off a late Philadelphia rally in part by killing off three third-period power plays.
"It was like a playoff atmosphere," said Philadelphia defenseman Chris Pronger of the packed house that made him a target of boos throughout the afternoon. "They are boisterous and energetic, and it's fun to play in games like that."
The win, the Jets' third straight, marked the second time in three days have victimized a division leader -- Winnipeg beat Washington 4-1 on Thursday after beating Tampa Bay earlier in the week. The Jets (8-9-3) will begin a three-game road trip next week.
Jets coach Claude Noel again praised the Winnipeg crowd.
"It's hard to argue with the passion that the fans have in this whole city," Noel said. "It's just really something to see. It's really fun to be a part of, to see a city embrace a team and the National Hockey League being back."
Philadelphia (11-5-3) lost for the first time in regulation since the Jets' wild 9-8 victory at the Wells Fargo Center on Oct. 27. The Flyers had been 6-0-2 since the NHL's highest-scoring game in 15 years.
"It's frustrating," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of his team's play, which saw the Flyers fall behind 5-1 by the middle of the second period. "We shot ourselves in the foot for the first half of the game anyway. They were quicker to the pucks and more disciplined."
"I think we're just getting back to basics," Little said. "I think that before we were turning over pucks and trying to be too fancy. Now we're just playing simple and outworking teams."
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 34 shots but lost in regulation for the first time this season as the Flyers lost to the Jets' franchise for the ninth time in their last 10 meetings. The Flyers received a pair of goals from Scott Hartnell and Matt Read. Hartnell also contributed a pair of assists.
"Points don't matter when you lose a game like this," Hartnell said in shrugging off his first four-point game since March 10, 2009.
A vocal segment of the crowd wanted to see Ilya Bryzgalov spell Bobrovsky after the firestorm surrounding the veteran goaltender's comments on the city.
"We thought about it," Laviolette said of pulling Bobrovsky but also acknowledging that the Jets could have ripped open the game further without some stout work from the second-year netminder under heavy pressure to allow Philadelphia to begin a comeback.
Philadelphia has battled discipline issues all season; the Flyers entered the game having taken a League-worst 17.3 penalty minutes per game and paid the price against Winnipeg, which scored three times on eight chances with the extra man after going 2-for-5 while beating Washington on Thursday.
"We didn't do a very good job killing penalties and taking penalties," Pronger said. "And soft plays against a team like that, that's playing with confidence and moving the puck around, you are going to get behind."
The Jets took advantage when a bad line change led to the Flyers being called for too many men just 3:22 into the game. After Byfuglien stunned Bobrovsky with a climbing blast moments earlier, the goaltender could not settle a second shot from Byfuglien, this one a left-side one-timer. Little pushed through a crowd near the crease and swatted the rebound into the net at 4:45.
Little scored again 2:15 later, dancing to the left circle and using Philadelphia defender Matt Carle as a screen to direct a shot that fooled Bobrovsky.
Hard work by Wheeler set up the Jets' third goal, their second on the power play. The deceptively mobile Wheeler motored in on Bobrovsky and drew a slash from Pronger. Kyle Wellwood scooped up the rebound of another Byfuglien shot, pivoted and backhanded the puck across the slot to Ladd, who flicked a shot just inside the left post at 10:15.
Pronger atoned for his earlier penalty on Philadelphia's first power play, sending a long, low shot from just inside the blue line that that Hartnell redirected past Pavelec at 13:27 to eat into the Winnipeg lead and snap what had been a run of 17 straight successful kills for the Jets.
Slater pounced on a loose puck that Pronger fumbled with the Flyers up a man, stripping him at the left point before breaking in alone and ripping an off-wing shot over Bobrovsky's shoulder at 5:49 of the second for a 4-1 lead and the Jets' second shorthanded strike in four games.
It became 5-1 at 10:20 after penalties to Carle and Daniel Briere put the Flyers down two men. Winnipeg's top power-play unit exhausted the overwhelmed Philadelphia defense, and Byfuglien fired a shot from deep in the right corner that slipped between Bobrovsky and the post.
Philadelphia responded with a power-play tally of its own late in the second period with Hartnell's second goal. Read's 2-on-1 wrister from the high slot at 8:32 of the third period sliced the Winnipeg lead to two goals, and he made it close with a laser from the lower right circle that beat Pavelec with 2:14 remaining.
"We would have liked to keep our foot on the pedal," Noel said of Philadelphia's third-period resurgence, "but it's easier said than done."
The Jets' road swing, which begins next Wednesday at Washington, comes before a stretch in which the team will play 13 of 15 games at home.
"It's huge," Byfuglien said of the homestand sweep. "It's something that we needed to come on this homestand."