ANAHEIM, California – After Marko Dano tied the game with just 3:46 to play in the third period, Blake Wheeler scored the winning goal at 3:07 of overtime, giving the Jets a 2-1 decision over the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday at Honda Center.
Wheeler fired a shot from the top of the right circle, handcuffing goalie John Gibson, who got a piece of it with his elbow, but was unable to retrieve the knuckler in time before it trickled across the line.
“There’s a lot of ways to win hockey games and much of this season we’d probably come out of it with nothing,” Wheeler said. “We stayed with it, we weren’t chasing the game, we weren’t trying to break something loose that wasn’t there. That’s a sign of progress for us. It’s a good step in the right direction and hopefully we can carry that forward.”
Once again, the Jets went toe-to-toe with a team bound for the playoffs, but had no trouble keeping up.
They were determined to get the win, despite being outshot 11-6 in the third.
In great position in front of the net, Dano redirected Jacob Trouba’s point shot for his fifth of the year, and fourth since joining the Jets on Feb. 25, to send the game to a fourth and deciding period.
“This is what we have to play for now,” Wheeler said. “We’re not going to be able to play in the playoffs and the teams we’re playing now are. We have a lot of young guys that don’t have a lot of experience, and this is a good time for them to gain some really valuable experience against some heavy competition. We’ll see how we measure up. It makes these games meaningful for our club.”
Wheeler, who was obviously part of the playoff experience last year, felt it was time to make a statement after losing 10 straight to the Ducks.
“That looked pretty similar to the playoff games we played against them last year. They were able to steal a few from us last year, so it’s a good feeling to win in this building. These guys are primed for probably a deep playoff run and we understood that, so we wanted to give them all they could handle.
“Getting the win was a bonus.”
It was the fourth time in nine games the Jets had a game settled in overtime or a shootout.
With the overtime loss, the Ducks fall to 44-24-11 and, combined with the Kings win earlier tonight, are now tied for first in the Pacific with three games to play, including a head-to-head matchup on Thursday at Staples Center.
The Ducks opened the scoring on their first power-play chance of the night, just 13 seconds after Dano was flagged for high sticking. Ryan Getzlaf’s howitzer from the far circle rattled the crossbar and stayed out, but Corey Perry was quick to the scene, swatting the bouncing puck past Michael Hutchinson for the game’s initial marker.
Sami Vatanen picked up the second assist after putting it on a tee for the captain. The goal – Perry’s team-leading 33rd of the year – came at 13:33, after the Jets had jumped out to an 8-5 lead in shots.
The Ducks nearly doubled their lead late in the middle frame when Getzlaf intercepted a pass and sent Andrew Cogliano in alone, but Hutchinson made a big save – one of only six in the period – punching it away with the blocker to keep the deficit at one.
Hutchinson finished with 27 saves, including one of the magnificent variety when he stoned Getzlaf on a breakaway early in overtime.
“To come back on them, when we were trailing for so long and battling so hard for every inch out there, it’s a huge win and we’ll definitely enjoy it,” he said.
The Jets were the better of the two teams in the first 40 minutes, outshooting the Ducks 19-15.
“They’re skating hard and they’re working hard,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said.
“That’s what we have left [to play for].”
LATE HITS: Brandon Tanev made his NHL debut after signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Jets last week, just days after finishing his college career with the Providence Friars. Tanev played 11:51 – including 2:26 on the penalty kill – recording one hit, one shot and block.
“He’s on the puck, he got to pucks first, he’s smart and made good decisions,” Maurice said. “He can play at a high rate of speed and that’s highly valued in the league right now.”
Tanev said of the experience: “It’s definitely something I’m going to remember for a long time.
“I thought it went well. My linemates helped me out a lot, talking and letting me know what I needed to do. Just continue to push, keep it simple and work hard. … After the first couple shifts, the jitters went away and you’re right into the game.”
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com