MONTREAL, QC - If Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets could bottle the effort they've put in, and the surgical precision with which they've executed over the past three nights - culminating in a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday afternoon - they'd take it today, tomorrow and 82 times a year.
"The players understand that you're going to lose games, but it's about (not) losing confidence," Maurice said following the game at the Bell Centre. "When we left that [Pittsburgh] game, you don't lose a thing. You feel terrible because you put a lot into it, but they didn't walk away playing any less confident - probably even more confident because even in an overtime loss, they were walking out of there saying 'That's what we're capable of doing on a nightly basis and that's our challenge.'"
Unlike the Pittsburgh game, the Jets got the full two points they deserved this time around.
"It's a continuation," Maurice said. "We've had three really strong games and it was more of the same tonight."
Drummondville native Mathieu Perreault broke a 1-1 tie with his fifth of the year 1:15 into the third period, and Patrik Laine scored into the empty net with 1:17 to play.
Video: WPG@MTL: Byfuglien, Perreault combine for nifty goal
Joel Armia potted the other for Winnipeg, while Connor Hellebuyck made 19 saves.
"I thought we were ready from the drop of the puck," captain Blake Wheeler said. "Besides a fluky bounce off the boards, that was a really solid game with lots of good things we can build around. After we got behind by two there in Pittsburgh, we started to play with a lot of energy and with a lot of speed, so they gave us a lot of energy and excitement coming into this one.
Cleary, because with confidence, comes creativity.
Dustin Byfuglien made a sensational play to make the winning goal possible, driving the net and kicking the puck between his legs in front to Perreault, who chopped it home on the backhand for the eventual game winner.
"When you've got 12 guys turned back on the bench looking at the TV monitor, that's pretty special," Maurice said, adding with a laugh: "I haven't seen a lot of one-handed inside toe drags with your back foot into the slot … But he's the one guy that's capable of doing it."
Perreault, who had 15 friends and family members taking in the game live, could only marvel at the pass.
Video: POSTGAME | Mathieu Perreault
"It just came to me and I just whacked it. It's funny, sometimes you get great looks but can't put it on, and then you get a chance like that and you put it in," he said.
"I haven't been scoring too much lately; the chances have been there, I just couldn't score. To get it here in Montreal, it's awesome."
Trailing 1-0 entering the second period despite having a significant shot lead, the Jets evened the score with a beautiful shorthanded goal at 4:52.
Armia, who's had more of an offensive dimension to his game in recent weeks, made a great play to break up the Montreal entry before turning it back the other way. In alone, he made a hard cut at the lip of the blue ice, beating Price with a filthy move on the forehand to pot the equalizer.
Video: WPG@MTL: Armia steals puck, dekes for fantastic SHG
Armia now has six on the year, and two in his last three games.
"We've been playing some good hockey," Perreault said. "We've been a lot more physical of late and it's changed everything for us. It creates space for us out on the ice. Teams aren't exactly scared, but they get rid of the puck a little sooner than they want to and it creates a lot of room for us.
"(Armia's goal) was huge. We were playing a great game until then, and from there, we just took over."
Hellebuyck, while not overly busy, was excellent when called upon. Among the nine shots he faced in the second, there were at least three showstoppers, including a magnificent post-to-post effort on Nathan Beaulieu that kept the game knotted at one during a Montreal power play.
"Anytime after you lose, you really want to get back at it and give the best performance you can because it's going to feel twice as good [if you win]," Hellebuyck said.
"This is what good hockey is. You're winning, enjoying the locker room and enjoying the off time, and really come together as a group."
The Jets were by far the better team in the opening frame, recording 15 of the 21 shots in the period, but a bad bounce in their own end led to the Canadiens' opening goal at 11:04, forcing Winnipeg to play from behind for the second straight game.
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
A Ben Chiarot bank pass took a funny hop off the boards and was picked off at the corner Zamboni gate, giving the Habs all kinds of time to orchestrate a play down low. The puck eventually founds its way to Andrei Markov, who drilled home his fourth of the year off a great feed from Max Pacioretty at the side of the net to put the Canadiens up 1-0.
Patrik Laine had Winnipeg's best chance of the period as he made a great read to keep the puck in at the line before putting the moves on a Montreal defender, but Carey Price came up with a ridiculous, around-the-world glove save off Laine's bar-down bid, keeping the game scoreless on the shift prior to Markov's opening tally.
LATE HITS: Drew Stafford came down with illness just prior to game time and did not dress. Brandon Tanev, who was recalled from the AHL's Manitoba Moose on Friday, was inserted on the fourth line alongside Nic Petan and Chris Thorburn.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com