WINNIPEG - If there was ever a time for the Winnipeg Jets to produce an effort like that - a surgical, and at times dominant showing - this was it.
All the talk leading up set the stage, wrote the script, and ultimately provided answers - for one night, anyway - to the many questions plaguing the team throughout a dismal four-game losing streak.
An offence run dry in the past few games? They responded with timely (and just plain explosive) goal scoring.
Goaltending not quite up to par? How about a sparkling, 30-save showcase for the 'newcomer'?
Altogether, it yielded some of the most exciting hockey of the season and above all, two colossal points in that ever-tightening western conference playoff race.
Fourteen different players - including six different goal-scorers - found their way onto the score sheet, while Ondrej Pavelec was excellent in goal, stopping all but three shots to secure his first win (in his first game) of the campaign. Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Copp, Joel Armia, Jacob Trouba and Nikolaj Ehlers scored as the Jets knocked off the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 in the opener of a four-game home stand.
"Bryan Little's line was really driving the bus and the other lines just got in behind it," said Head Coach Paul Maurice, noting Little's two-point night in just over 18 minutes of ice time.
"We had some real good performances. It was a good win."
Added the captain: "We responded well. The first period didn't go the way we necessarily wanted it to and we just stuck with it and kept battling."
That they did.
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
Arizona took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission after getting goals from Josh Jooris and Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the front half of the opening frame, but Winnipeg fought back, scoring three unanswered goals to establish a 4-2 lead midway through the second.
It started early, and after Morrissey, Byfuglien, Little and Mathieu Perreault put on a clinic in puck control, Wheeler tied things up with his 14th of the year, 3:03 in. Perreault showed great patience at the side of the net, finding Wheeler with a sweet pass across the goalmouth after the captain bowled his way into position.
The Jets took their first lead of the night just 1:39 later as the fourth line went to work, freezing the enemy with a relentless forecheck deep in the trenches. Eventually, after a Chris Thorburn shot was knocked down near the blue paint, Copp fended off a check before briefly getting the handle, spinning and firing into the open side for his first in 16 games.
"We're not going to be all high and mighty and think we're the best team in the league all of a sudden, but it's a good win and we're going to enjoy it, for sure," Copp said. "We want to remember this feeling and know what it takes to win day in and day out."
Armia put the Jets up by two with his prettiest of the year, finishing off an excellent, 45-foot centering pass from Shawn Matthias, who carried the puck up the left side after getting a stretch feed from Byfuglien before stutter-stepping a defender and sending the puck in front for the tip-in.
The Jets outshot the Coyotes 19-8 in the period, owning it at every turn.
Pavelec, meanwhile…well, he was absolutely sensational on the few shots he did see.
Early on, he stuck out the right pad - a marvellous kick save - to reject Brandon Perlini on a feed from Christian Dvorak in tight, keeping the Jets' one-goal intact near the midway point of the period. Then, with about five minutes left, he came up with a larcenous paddle save on Radim Vrbata, who had nothing but net staring him down after getting a pass from former Jet Alexander Burmistrov at the bottom of the near circle.
Video: POSTGAME | Ondrej Pavelec
"As a goalie just being called up from the AHL, you can't ask for more from the guys in front of him," said Pavelec, who added that he felt a little more nervous that usual leading up to game time. "The guys battled so hard. They realized the goalie was struggling in the first period. It was to get the win in the first game, that's for sure.
"First shot of the game, goal; then on the first shot on the 5-on-3, another goal. It was tough but without the guys I wouldn't have been able to bounce back and get the win."
Video: ARI@WPG: Pavelec robs Vrbata with amazing stick save
"What was good about (Pavelec's) game is that he built through it," Maurice said. "There were some nerves in the first part but we just got stronger. He pulled some (saves) out that only a talented man can do. I'm really happy for him. Going to the minors at that point in his career is a humbling thing and he figured out how to handle it right and get himself ready to come back."
Trouba put the Jets up 5-2 with 12:19 to play in the third period as he shovelled home the rebound from a Drew Stafford shot, plunging it between the legs of Mike Smith as he pierced his way through a quartet of Arizona defenders.
Ehlers rounded out the scoring for Winnipeg just over a minute later as he fired one home from long range to record his 15th of the year, chasing Smith from the game. Jakob Chychrun added one late for the visitors to salt a 6-3 final.
Louis Domingue finished the game for the Coyotes, making four saves in just over 11 minutes of action.
Josh Jooris opened the scoring for the Coyotes on their first shot of the game at 2:49, but the Jets replied just 47 seconds later to even the score at one. For the 15,296 in attendance, it was less of the rollicking goal celebration we've become used to in this barn, and more of a deep sigh - relief, mostly - after the recent events in goal.
Morrissey took a D-to-D pass from Dustin Byfuglien, cradled the puck at the left point and sifted one through traffic, putting it off Little and in for No. 18's ninth of the year.
Earlier, Jooris took the puck up his off wing and fired a low shot from the top of the left circle, beating Pavelec just under the pad after having it deflect off the stick of Trouba.
"He was set square on it and to be honest with you, it was comical. It was funny," Maurice said.
Back-to-back penalties (Paul Postma for tripping and Toby Enstrom for slashing), gave the Coyotes a extended 5-on-3, and they made the Jets pay dearly for those infractions. Just five seconds into the two-man advantage, Ekman-Larsson wired a shot over Pavelec's right shoulder, just under the bar, to restore the Arizona lead at 8:49.
The visitors still had 1:55 with which to work on the 5-on-4, but it was Winnipeg who drove the pace offensively. Wheeler chased down a loose puck and broke in alone, but fired the puck high and wide after pulling away from Connor Murphy at the offensive blue line. Ehlers did the same, creating a partial break from a steep angle below the right circle but, like Wheeler, his try on the backhand sailed wide.
Shots on goal favoured the Coyotes 12-8 after one, but the Jets took control immediately after.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com