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Jets cruise past Avs in 4-1 win

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER -- No Bryan Little. No Dustin Byfuglien. For the Winnipeg Jets, no problem.

Playing without Little (foot) and Byfuglien (undisclosed injury), the Jets ended the Colorado Avalanche's home winning streak at eight games Tuesday night with an impressive 4-1 victory at the Pepsi Center.

Evander Kane, who had gone a season-long seven games without a goal, scored twice and Tim Stapleton added a goal and an assist to support the solid work of Ondrej Pavelec in goal.

"Everybody knows we have to play better on the road and we started tonight," said Pavelec, who made 32 saves and lost his bid for a shutout with 5:12 remaining on Kevin Porter's goal. "They are a pretty strong team at home and it is a good win for us on the road. We came here for two points and we got the two points, so I'm happy."

The Jets' fifth win in 17 road games moved them from 10th place in the Eastern Conference to eighth. The Avs, who had won five games in a row overall, would have moved from 11th place to eighth in the Western Conference with a victory but fell to 12th with the loss.

"It's a big win for us," Kane said. "To come back after Christmas on the road, it was a big game for us because it could put us in a playoff position. It's definitely positive. Now that we're in that position, we want to stay there and continue to build and climb in the standings and not be satisfied with being in eighth."

Jets coach Claude Noel had expressed some concern about playing in the mile-high altitude, but it was the Avs who seemed to run out of energy after playing in Minnesota on Monday.

"You know what? This is my third time here and I do actually feel it," Kane said of the thin air. "I remember my first time and everybody was talking about it and I didn't really believe it. Now I think it's a little more mental than physical. We're in pretty good shape and we're used to playing at a high pace."

Avalanche captain Milan Hejduk wouldn't use playing back-to-back games as an excuse but acknowledged that he and his teammates weren't at their best.

"At times we did look a little sluggish, but I guess that happens," he said. "We started decent and we created some chances, but we didn't capitalize on them and they did. They're pretty dangerous up front and they were kind of waiting for our mistakes, and we made some. They're a quick team up front, dangerous."

The Jets scored twice in the second period to take a commanding 3-0 lead against goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who had won four consecutive starts.

"Overall I didn't think we had that bad of a game," said Giguere, who hadn't permitted more than three goals in any game this season before Jim Slater scored at 3:41 of the third period to give the Jets a 4-0 lead. "We gave them what they got with our breakdowns, but those can be corrected. We've had better games than this. Their goalie played well and we had a few breakdowns here and there."

Stapleton scored a power-play goal at 1:21 of the second period when he poked the puck into a wide-open net. Defenseman Tobias Enstrom took a shot and the puck bounced off Andrew Ladd's stick and came to Stapleton.

The Jets had gone 2-for-17 on power plays in the previous seven games and 0-for-14 in their previous four games on the road.

Kane scored his second goal of the game and 17th of the season at 14:52, seconds after Giguere stopped him on a breakaway off a turnover by Hejduk. Chris Thorburn's attempted wraparound caromed to Kane at the opposite side for a tap into a half-open net.

"He made a great play in front of the net and put it through the crease there and gave me a wide-open net," Kane said.    

The Jets were outshot 11-6 in the first period but scored the only goal when Kane connected on a 2-on-1 rush with Blake Wheeler. Erik Johnson was the lone defender back when Kane, while skating down left wing, wired a shot that beat Giguere high to the glove side.
"It is not easy to breathe here," Pavelec said. "It was important we scored the first goal and I think we played a solid road game. It wasn't an easy game for us."
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