WINNIPEG - It was exactly the kind of bounce-back effort the Winnipeg Jets wanted after a disappointing end to their most recent road trip.
Goals by Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler, along with 28 saves from Connor Hellebuyck, helped the Jets to a tactical 2-0 win over the Calgary Flames, giving Winnipeg three wins in its last four games.
"We were trying to focus on all the really positive things we did on that trip," Wheeler said of the three-game eastern swing, where the Jets collected four of a possible six points and were in control, leading 3-1 in the third period of their final game against the Buffalo Sabres. "A good majority of that trip we took some nice strides, but it just got away from us at the wrong time there in Buffalo. We had our focus in the right place and came out determined tonight to get back on the right track."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
With the win, the Jets are now only three points back of the Flames for the first of two Western Conference wild-card spots. They're only one point back of the second, but the Los Angeles Kings have three games in hand.
It was the proverbial four-point game.
A regulation loss would have put the Jets a more significantly distant seven points back with an even number of games played.
"You need the win. You need to come out and play right and win that next game so that you can, if you're judging periods, be a lot more positive about the last 12 periods that you played," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "We had a couple [periods] we didn't like, the first in Tampa wasn't the best, but then we were very, very good, winning the game and not giving one up here today."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
Byfuglien opened the scoring for the Jets at 10:21 of the first period. The big man showed great speed through the neutral zone, flying past Mark Giordano before toe-dragging Dougie Hamilton and firing a shot under the arm of Flames goalie Chad Johnson.
The Jets had the better of the chances overall, but trailed the Flames 9-6 in shots after one period of play.
Nikolaj Ehlers had a chance to extend the lead midway through the second when new linemate Drew Stafford found him with a deflected outlet pass, but Johnson made a great save on the Dane's backhand five-hole attempt, smothering it between the pads.
Moments later, Joel Armia jumped on a loose puck and found himself one-on-one with the goaltender, but he was checked from behind and lost the handle in tight as he made a cheeky move to the forehand.
The Jets outshot the Flames 12-6 in the middle frame for a two-period advantage of 18-15.
"It was tight defensively," said Mark Scheifele. "Both sides were trying to create something and both teams weren't giving up a whole lot, but each game, depending on who it's against, you've got to have that (defensive) mentality.
"Our group has a lot of character. Tonight was definitely big for our confidence and we've got to know that, depending on if we have a bad period, bad shift, whatever it is, we've got to refocus and get back to what we know how to do."
Wheeler added the insurance at 3:16 of the third, scoring his first in five games to give him 12 on the year. The captain hounded Calgary defenceman T.J. Brodie, forcing him into a turnover just inside the offensive blue line. Intercepting the D-to-D pass attempt, Wheeler bust in on the right side and whipped a quick shot high on the glove side.
Video: CGY@WPG: Wheeler intercepts puck and goes top shelf
"It was a good, patient game," Wheeler said. "We knew where we were at. We liked where our game was at, we weren't panicked because of what happened in Buffalo. It happened at a bad time and we wanted to focus on all the good things we were doing because we really liked where our game was at."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com