On opening night, even more so. And if Game 1 of 82 was any indication, we’re in for a wild ride.
Enjoy the goose bumps, Jets fans.
Six goals in the final 40 minutes Thursday propelled the visitors to a 6-2 win over the Boston Bruins.
Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Drew Stafford, Chris Thorburn, Nic Petan and Alexander Burmistrov had the goals, while Ondrej Pavelec made 29 saves.
Petan’s goal – off his foot at 9:51 of the third period – was his first in the NHL. Andrew Copp picked up the assist for his second-career point.
“He’ll remember that one — ‘coast-to-coast,’ by the time he has his own kids,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said with a laugh.
“(The young players) certainly didn’t lack confidence with the puck, they tried some things. I’ll have to squeeze some of that out of them but leave a lot of it. That’s what they do; they make good plays and are good with the puck. We want them to explore that creativity and learn the right time to do it. I was happy with all the young players’ games tonight.”
The Jets had a tough start, allowing the first goal in a one-sided opening period, but rallied to make a game of it after that.
“They were coming,” Maurice said of the Bruins. “It was more a product of their power play, but they still had some even-strength stuff, too.
“Our goaltender was the reason we were still in it after the first period.”
The Bruins jumped out to an early 6-0 shot advantage, aided in part by an early power play. Pavelec was having none of it, however, stopping them all in spectacular fashion, including a point-blank chance from Patrice Bergeron.
With a flurry of activity in front of him, the veteran was doing whatever he could to keep his team in it. But the Jets were under siege, and couldn’t survive the early onslaught much longer.
Following a bad exchange between a pair of Jets defencemen, David Krejci put the home side up 1-0 at 5:36, lifting a backhander up and over the goaltender after pouncing on a loose puck in tight.
The Jets began to work their way back in the game after the first TV timeout, but the chances kept coming at the other end. Brad Marchand had a clear shot on a 2-on-1 late in the period, but Pavelec stood tall, getting just a piece of it with his glove to keep the score set at 1-0.
The Bruins led 13-6 in shots and 9-3 in scoring chances after 20 minutes.
Andrew Ladd had a glorious chance to level the score in the first minute of the second period, but his low stick-side attempt was turned aside by Tuukka Rask.
Slowly, the tide was turning.
“We were pretty bad in the first. … Those guys came out flying, but we weathered the storm,” Wheeler said. “We knew we didn’t have our best early on, so it was about getting back to our game. We had some new guys in our lineup and were trying to feel it out a bit. You’ve got to tip your cap to (the Bruins). They really looked good, they were all over the puck and they caught us on our heels.”
Added Maurice: "We started to skate incrementally better, shift by shift. We were a pretty darn good team after that. We scored some big, big goals throughout our whole lineup. Everybody got a piece of it. Our goaltender was great — it gave everybody a chance to get off the ground."
With Dustin Byfuglien leading the rush and dishing off to the trailing forward, the Jets brought the game back on even terms at 5:26. From the top of the circle, Scheifele fired a beautiful shot top shelf for the team’s first of the year.
“It was huge. It makes you breathe a little bit,” Wheeler said. “As bad as the game had gone, we were tied 1-1. That’s a big boost of confidence. That’s what Buff does. He can flip a game upside down with one play like that. That was a big play to give us some confidence and some momentum.”
The Jets took a 2-1 lead at 9:17, capping a stretch of over five minutes without allowing a shot on Pavelec. Wheeler was the beneficiary of a takeaway down low, firing a shot blocker side on Rask after receiving a pass from Ladd.
The captain made it all possible, picking the pocket of Bruins defenceman Matt Irwin before feeding Wheeler in the slot.
The Jets weren’t satisfied just yet. A goal with 2:21 left in the period gave the visitors a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
After receiving a fabulous cross-crease feed from Ben Chiarot, Adam Lowry sent it back across the blue paint to a streaking Stafford. No. 12 made no mistake, corralling it in his feet before popping a shot over the acrobatic efforts of the goaltender for the critical marker.
The Bruins cut the deficit to one 1:25 into the third, but the Jets got it right back a few minutes later. Thorburn finished off a 2-on-1 with Stafford, sliding a shot five-hole to restore the two-goal lead.
Then, with just over 10 minutes remaining, a moment Petan will never forget – his first NHL goal.
“Not quite [how I drew it up],” he laughed, “but I’ll take it. It’s an exciting feeling.
“I felt good out there. Our team didn’t have a great start but as the game went on we started to create some momentum. Pav played a strong game, so I think we fed off that.”
Making the moment even sweeter, Petan had a number of friends and family in attendance to help share in the celebration.
“I’m sure they’re excited. I’m excited to go out and see them.”
Burmistrov added an empty-netter with 3:38 to play, giving him a goal and an assist on the night.
The Jets continue their season-opening four-game road trip tomorrow night in New Jersey.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com