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Jets tied for third after shootout win vs. Coyotes

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG – Seven games, 11 days, over 9,000 kilometres traveled and yet, the Winnipeg Jets found the energy they needed.

After the Arizona Coyotes clawed their way back from a 3-1 deficit with two goals in a 2:49 span late in the third period, Bryan Little ended the suspense by scoring the shootout winner, propelling the Jets to a 4-3 victory on Sunday night at MTS Centre.

Ondrej Pavelec made 28 key saves in regulation and overtime before stopping all three shooters in the shootout.

Little, Michael Frolik and Dustin Byfuglien scored in the win.

The Jets (25-14-8) have won four straight games and are now tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for third in the Central Division with 58 points.

“It was a really good ending. A really, really good ending,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said.

“I’m an optimistic person, but if you said we would have gone 5-1-1 on this stretch, I’m not sure I would have believed you.

"This is by far the most difficult schedule of our season. There are going to be tougher times coming up when we hit a bunch of good teams in a row, but we’ll be rested, we’ll be ready and we’ll play our best hockey of the year.

“There was a lot of good in this block (of games).”

Finishing off a 2-on-1 with Andrew Ladd, Little opened the scoring at 4:08 as he delivered an off-speed one-time shot, fooling Arizona goaltender Mike Smith with a knuckler against the grain to give the Jets – who’ve scored first five times in their previous six games – a 1-0 lead.

Little is now the Jets’ leading goal-scorer with 18 on the year. His 19 assists give him 37 points overall.

The Coyotes got it right back three-and-a-half-minutes later as all-star defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson fired a long shot through traffic, beating Pavelec clean on the far side.

Ekman-Larsson has two goals and one assist in three games against the Jets this season.

Coming off an incredible, 46-save performance in Dallas, Pavelec continued to amaze near the midway point of the period, fleecing Tobias Rieder with a flashy glove save as the Coyotes applied pressure on the game’s first power-play.

Pavelec was at it again late, lunging across to rob the rookie on a 2-on-1 to preserve a tie at the break.

“It’s a big win,” he said. “I think we dominated for two periods and we stopped playing in the third, but we battled hard. It wasn’t a pretty game, but two points is two points.”

“It wasn’t the prettiest, but Pav came through big in the end,” added Zach Bogosian, who recorded three shots in 23:58 of ice time. “It’s been a lot of hockey in a short period of time, but you try to take it day-by-day; maintain and take care of yourself.”

Shots on goal favoured the Coyotes 11-8 after one period of play.

A gift off the stick of Connor Murphy put the Jets back in front 1:39 into the second. After bobbling the puck behind his own net, his attempt to corral bounced back into the slot, where an awaiting Frolik made no mistake, depositing it into the yawning cage for the go-ahead goal.

The Jets nearly extended to a 3-1 lead late in the period on a dangerous-looking 3-on-1, but Smith, who’s struggled mightily in the desert this season, came up with a phenomenal save off Little, emphatically punching the one-time offering aside with his blocker.

Byfuglien made it a 3-1 game at 9:36 of the third, rifling a shot top shelf after speeding up ice to create a 3-on-1 rush with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, but the Coyotes were quick to reply. With Mark Stuart off serving an interference penalty, Lauri Korpikoski scored the all-important PPG to make a game of it once again.

Then, with 3:30 on the clock, the visitors brought the game back on even terms.

After a big save by Pavelec moments earlier, Rieder cashed on a redirection, tying the game at three with 3:30 to play.

But that’s as close as the Coyotes got. Sam Gagner, Antoine Vermette and Shane Doan were all stopped in the shootout.

“We’d rather not win that way, but at the same time, we’re still managing to get wins and stick with it,” Little said. “We let it slip a bit, but it still feels good to get both points.”

— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com
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