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Jets end six-game losing streak, defeat Avalanche

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets needed a win to end a six-game losing streak that had made the Western Conference standings uncomfortably tight for them.

The Colorado Avalanche could have used a win simply to keep pace in the Western Conference. Instead, the Jets broke open a one-goal game with four goals in the second period in a 5-3 win against the Avalanche at MTS Centre on Sunday.

Mathieu Perreault, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Chiarot and Bryan Little had goals for the Jets (27-18-10), whose power play went 2-for-5. Jacob Trouba scored late in the third period. Byfuglien, who moved to forward to replace the injured Evander Kane, and Perreault each had two assists.

The line of Perreault, Byfuglien and center Mark Scheifele had a mix of size, speed and playmaking that the Avalanche struggled to slow.

"When [those three players] are going like the way they were after the first [period], they’re a lot to handle," Jets coach Paul Maurice said.

The Jets ended their 0-4-2 skid, won for the first time since Jan. 21 and continue to hold the first wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference. The win extended their lead on the idle Calgary Flames, the second wild-card team, to three points.

Winnipeg has points in each of its past three games (1-0-2) and had been showing signs of rebounding from its slump before Sunday.

"It’s a lot more of what we want to look like out there," Little said. "[Winning] tonight was definitely a long time coming."

Colorado (22-21-11) has lost three consecutive games, two of them shutouts, and extended its scoring drought on the power play to 0-for-27 in the past nine games. The Avalanche remain six points behind Calgary. The Dallas Stars slipped one point ahead of the Avalanche with a 3-2 overtime win at the New York Rangers.

"We have to find a solution to [the power play] soon if we want to have a chance to get into the Playoff race," Colorado forward Ryan O’Reilly said. "We’ve put ourselves in a bit of a hole the past three games. It’s frustrating. We just have to focus on the next game and take this stretch one [game] at a time. But we definitely have some work to do."

Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a hip injury and broke the Colorado’s goalless streak of 136:17 in the first period. Matt Duchene broke his six-game goalless streak with 12:53 left in regulation, and Jarome Iginla had two assists. Alex Tanguay scored his first goal in 11 games.

Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 24 saves in his 10th consecutive start.

Ondrej Pavelec made 25 saves for Winnipeg.

Colorado took a 1-0 lead in the first period with Varlamov off for an extra skater on a delayed Winnipeg penalty. Barrie stepped into the high slot and sent a low shot past Pavelec at 10:57.

Perreault tied a career-high with his 18th goal 2:04 into the second period when he finished Mark Scheifele’s rebound low past Varlamov at the right post. Perreault had 18 goals in 69 games last season with the Anaheim Ducks before signing with the Jets as a free agent this past July.

"It has been a great [season]," said Perreault, who was originally signed to be a center and didn’t score his first goal until Nov. 18. "I’ve been having a lot of fun."

Moments after the Avalanche had a power-play opportunity to increase their lead and failed, the Winnipeg power play made it 2-1 at 5:42 of the second. Little one-timed a cross-ice pass at the left circle that Byfuglien tipped before Varlamov could scramble into position. Byfuglien has split the season as a forward and a defenseman and six of Byfuglien’s 13 goals have come at the forward position.

The juncture highlighted the growing frustration with the Colorado power play. Instead of having a possible 2-0 lead, the Avalanche were tied 1-1 because of a power play that managed four shots on three opportunities in the game.

"Obviously there are a lot of what-ifs and stuff like that that can happen if we do bury one there," O’Reilly said. "It [would have] changed the whole mentality. It’s frustrating to not score on that and [then] see them have success on their power play."

Chiarot gave the Jets a 3-1 lead when he jammed his second goal under Varlamov off a rush led by Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn at 13:24 of the second.

Little finished the second-period scoring on a 5-on-3 power play with his team-leading 21st goal with a slap shot under the crossbar at 15:48.

"I was very pleased with the first period," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I would say that the rest of the game we had too many turnovers and giveaways, and they scored on their power play. If you turn over the puck like we did, it will be costly [sometimes]."

Colorado managed to rally in the third period and move to within two goals when Duchene redirected Iginla’s right-side shot past Pavelec for his 14th goal at 7:07.

After Trouba’s sixth goal restored Winnipeg’s three-goal lead with 8:57 left. Tanguay’s 14th goal pushed the Avalanche back to within two goals. Varlamov was pulled for an extra attacker with 2:21 left in the game, but Pavelec held off Colorado’s final push.

Colorado starts a four-game homestand Thursday against the Rangers.

"One thing that I want to tell our players is that I’m never going to give up," Roy said. "I’m going to push. I still believe that we could come back in the Playoff run. Now we have a lot of home games coming up, and we’re going to have to be sharp, and we’re going to have to play some solid hockey."

Roy’s players seconded his message.

"It’s a big homestand for us," said Barrie, who leads all Colorado defensemen with 31 points. "This is kind of do-or-die at this point of the season."

Winnipeg finishes a three-game homestand Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild, who are eight points behind the Jets with four games in hand. The win also provided the Jets with some relief after a losing streak, Kane’s injury and media speculation about Kane’s future with the organization.

"I like the growth that we needed to see this week," Maurice said. "It has not been an easy week for us. We have learned some things on how to handle our family and the fact that when you handle it a certain way, not everybody is going to agree, and it doesn’t make for easy days.

"But you handle it the right way. Most importantly, we’re all getting to paid to do it, is to play a certain way. I think we have done that the past three games."

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