WINNIPEG - Friday night was a milestone night for Winnipeg Jets forward Bryan Little.
He became the sixth member of the 2006 NHL Draft class to reach 500 career points. To make it even better, the goal that helped him reach the mark held up as the game-winner, as the Jets doubled up the Detroit Red Wings 4-2.
"It's gone by fast. I'm trying to think of the years over my career up to this point, it seems like it's flown by. Hopefully there are many more to come," said Little, before reflecting on the game that saw the Jets jump out to a 3-0 lead before Detroit pulled within one in the third period.
"It was another one of those strange games. There were a lot of momentum shifts and we let off the gas a couple times in the second and they made a good push," said Little. "Your lead never really felt safe."
Video: POSTGAME | Bryan Little
Little's goal, which bounced off the inside of Detroit defenceman Mike Green's knee, hopped off the ice and through goaltender Jonathan Bernier, was fitting in a way.
It reminded Little of his first NHL point, which came on Oct. 6, 2007 - also in the second period.
"It was fluky like my goal tonight. It was my first game and I just threw it out in front from behind the net and it banked off the goalie," said Little, adding his 500th point nearly came earlier in tonight's contest.
"I had one in the second that almost went off my foot and in the net. It's nice to get those bounces every once in a while."
Video: DET@WPG: Little scores to earn 500th point
The victory came in the second of games on back-to-back nights and pushed Winnipeg's record to 28-14-2. Brandon Tanev, Blake Wheeler, and Kyle Connor (who finished with three points) also scored for the Jets, while Laurent Brossoit made 33 saves in the win.
For Brossoit, it was his first start since shutting out the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 22.
"To start I felt a little bit rusty. The first period was a bit sloppy in my eyes. In the second and third period I definitely settled in and felt good," said Brossoit, who anticipated a push from the Red Wings after Winnipeg's early success.
"In this league, if you get up early it doesn't mean much. A lot of teams get up and and they have a tendency to sit back and allow their forecheck and allow them to buzz in their own zone. We know we have a lot of good characters on this team. Even when we go up, we play the right way."
It didn't take the Jets long to get the offence rolling. Tanev - who set a new career high in goals on Thursday night in Minnesota - flipped home his 10th of the season just 13 seconds into the game.
Then, to book end the period with offence, Wheeler's eighth of the campaign came with only 1.6 seconds remaining in the first. His shot with time winding down deflected off the stick of Thomas Vanek and found its way past Bernier.
Video: DET@WPG: Wheeler scores just before 1st expires
Little's 500th career point milestone came 4:51 into the second period. It was a shot from the left circle, and in the mind of Jets head coach Paul Maurice - a reward for a player who has earned every single one of those points.
"Over the last two or three years, Bryan does whatever job we've asked. He's playing with young players, he's trying to be a good example, a good mentor," said Maurice.
"He's one of those guys tonight, he competed right from start to finish. He does that every night. He's not under appreciated by the people here… He's a better player now than he's ever been."
A Luke Glendening shorthanded marker off the rush pulled Detroit within two near the midway mark of the second period. It was the first goal Brossoit had surrendered since Dec. 14 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"He's figured the most important thing out. If you're not playing a lot of games, or you're not playing big minutes, you have to make sure you push yourself as hard as you possibly can in practice," said Maurice.
"He's been quietly a good leader for our group. He plays practice really hard so when he gets into that game it's just a continuation of what he's doing. I think he's been just an outstanding acquisition for our team."
Video: DET@WPG: Tanev scores 13 seconds into the game
Detroit cashed in on a power play opportunity nearly seven minutes into the third to get within a goal. Dennis Cholowski took a cross-ice pass from Niklas Kronwall - a pass Brossoit didn't see through the traffic in front of him. Cholowski found the top corner on the short side for his seventh of the season, beating Brossoit over the left shoulder.
The best chance Detroit had to tie the game came when Andreas Athanasiou pounced on a puck that hopped over Sami Niku's stick at the Red Wings blue line, leaving him all alone against Brossoit.
But the Jets goaltender was up to the task, making perhaps his most important save of the night.
"I didn't really have a lot of time to think," said Brossoit. "He came in, I shaded to one side and gave him one side. But he went five-hole and kind of caught me off guard. I was just lucky to get a knee on it."
The insurance marker from Connor - his third point of the night - came with exactly 60 seconds to go in regulation. With Bernier pulled for an extra attacker, Connor's 16th of the season was an empty net goal from the blue line, sealing the 4-2 win.
Next on the schedule, the Jets face off with the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday at Bell MTS Place.