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Hammond leads surging Sens past Jets

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG – Andrew Hammond is authoring a sudden success story, and on this night at MTS Centre, the ‘tender’s tall tale came at the expense of the home team.

The 27-year-old rookie improved to 6-0-1 in seven starts with the Ottawa Senators this season after a 35-save, 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan and Erik Condra had the goals for the visitors, while Michael Frolik had the lone marker for the Jets. Michael Hutchinson, who was making his fourth straight start, was pulled after allowing all three goals on 17 shots.

“I thought we had a pretty good start, but they seemed to capitalize on their chances a bit better than we did tonight,” Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. “(Hammond) played really well, but we had a couple opportunities to put it in and couldn’t. It was one of those nights. We’ll put this one behind us and move forward into this next stretch of games that are really important.”

The Jets kick off a four-game road trip on Saturday in Nashville.

The Senators opened the scoring with a goal off the rush at 4:49. Turris – who came into the night riding a pace better than a point-per-game over his last 10 – sped down the wing before turning the corner and rifling a shot off the far post and in, putting the visitors up 1-0 after the Jets raced out to an early 7-1 advantage in shots.

Appearing on back-to-back nights, Hammond looked sharp and not the least bit tired after a 29-save performance on Tuesday in Minnesota .

The talented netminder – whose playful moniker, ‘The Hamburglar,’ is derived from a caricature on the side of goalie mask – made 15 saves in the period. His best came midway through when he made a magnificent split save off Andrew Ladd, kicking out the right pad to deny the captain’s one-time offering.

“We had a pretty good game,” Michael Frolik, who registered four of the Jets’ 36 shots on goal, said post-game. “I think we needed to go to the net more. (Hammond) saw a lot of pucks, but he still played unbelievable.

“We’ve got to learn from it and be ready for the next one.”

Hutchinson wasn’t nearly as busy in the opening 20, but he was tested early in the second as Condra was sprung on a breakaway 35 seconds in.

After that bit of excitement, the Jets went back on the attack in search of the equalizer. Jiri Tlusty couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to cash it, but his stab at the open net thumped off the base of the goalpost as Hammond scrambled back to his feet.

The mistake proved costly, as the Senators took a 2-0 lead shortly thereafter.

With Jacob Trouba off serving a slashing penalty, Bobby Ryan sniped home his 17th of the season as he converted a one-timer teed up by Mika Zibanejad. Condra extended the lead with 8:06 to play in the period, whistling a short-side one-time shot past Hutchinson after receiving a feed from Mark Stone down below the goal line.

After allowing three goals on 17 shots, No. 34’s night was over. Ondrej Pavelec came on in relief, posting three saves in a little more than 28 minutes of work.

“It’s always tough to get pulled in a game. It’s one part of goaltending that isn’t too much fun, but it happens,” Hutchinson said. “You’re pretty pissed off at yourself at the start, but I’m over it now. I’m looking forward to getting back on the ice tomorrow at practice and getting ready for my next start.”

Added Head Coach Paul Maurice: “I don’t have any problems with the goals that beat him. … I was looking for a momentum shift at that point. I don’t think he looked all that comfortable in the game. If that game’s at 3-2, I wouldn’t have taken him out. But at 3-0 I’m looking to change momentum and give him a bit of a breather. He also doesn’t need to be in for more if it keeps going in that direction.”

The Jets had a glorious opportunity to make a game of it late in the middle frame when Adam Lowry and Lee Stempniak choreographed a beautiful 2-on-1, but Hammond came up with another incredible save, heading the puck to safety.

Now that’s using your noggin.

“I was a little concerned when Jiri hit the post on the empty net and then when Stempniak hit him in the forehead with nothing but mesh starting at him, then you’ve got a big concern,” Maurice said. “There will always be things that you don’t like in a loss – things that you’d like to do better. … But we didn’t take them lightly. At the end of the day, their goalie was real good.”

The Jets got on the board at 5:46 of the third. Tyler Myers delivered a beautiful, 25-foot backhand pass across to Frolik, who made no mistake at the doorstep, striking a shot past Hammond to pull the double blue within two.

Stempniak tallied his first point as a Jet with an assist on the goal.

But it was as close as the Jets got. Hammond shut the door the rest of the way, making 11 stops in the final 14 minutes.

LATE HITS: Dustin Byfuglien left the game midway through the second period and did not return with an upper-body injury.

Maurice said the defenceman will be re-evaluated on Thursday.

— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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