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Little's overtime goal lifts Jets past Avalanche

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- Two teams with struggling offenses remained true to form Sunday before the Winnipeg Jets finally outlasted the Colorado Avalanche.

Jets center Brian Little scored with 24.2 seconds remaining in overtime to give Winnipeg a 2-1 victory and salvage a five-game homestand at MTS Centre. Little tipped a backhander by Jets captain Andrew Ladd through Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov's pads.

"I liked the action we had around the net all [game] from all of the lines," Ladd said. "It was good to see. I thought that we had a lot more confidence down low, created a lot and deserved to win this one."

Before a 7-3 home win Friday against the Vancouver Canucks, the Avalanche had scored 12 goals in their first seven games. The Jets have averaged 1.88 goals this season.

Along with his overtime assist, Ladd scored his 100th goal with the franchise. Jamie McGinn had the lone goal for the Avalanche (2-4-3). First-period assists moved Alex Tanguay's point streak to five games and Tyson Barrie's point streak to four games.

"I thought that we were very comfortable when it was a 1-1 hockey game," Little said. "You just had a feeling in this room that we were going to come through and win it. We stuck with it when was 1-1. I just felt like it was a game we weren't going to lose."

"[The win is] big," Little said of the Jets (3-5-0), who have won two of three after snapping a four-game losing streak. "I really like the way our team came out. We responded really well."

Varlamov started for the second straight game after missing three games because of a groin injury. He made 26 saves and dodged a shot off the post from Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele in the third period and subsequent in-close pressure. Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec, who has appeared in every game this season, made 22 saves.

The Jets went 2-3-0 on the homestand and will play nine of their next 11 games on the road, starting Tuesday against the New York Islanders.

"It's good to get a good feeling in here before we go on the road and get back to work," Ladd said.

The win against Vancouver ended the Avalanche's 0-2-2 slide, but Colorado struggled to sustain offensive pressure against the Jets.

"Both teams knew how important it was to win that game," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "We know that we need to get on a roll."

The Jets, who began the game allowing 2.9 goals per game, held the Avalanche to one goal on 16 shots through two periods. Winnipeg managed to slow down the Avalanche's fast-skating forwards and prevent them from hitting the offensive zone with speed.

"They did a good job plugging up the neutral zone," Avalanche center Matt Duchene said of the Jets. "I don't think they generated too much [offense], either. They know we're a fast, skilled team, and they did a good job neutralizing our speed and skill. Having said that, we still had some good chances and easily could have won that hockey game."

"Sometimes you just have to tip your hat," Duchene said. "I think we played pretty hard. We competed. Maybe we could have executed a little bit better with the puck at times, but we didn't get much going in their zone. They played us hard, they hit, they finished checks, they made it hard to keep the play in motion."

"It's disappointing to lose [this] one, because I think we feel that we easily could have won it," Duchene said.

Winnipeg took a 1-0 lead 6:25 into the game when Ladd deflected Zach Bogosian's right-point shot past Varlamov for his second goal of the season.

The Jets proceeded to limit Colorado to one shot in the first 10 minutes. However, Bogosian clipped Duchene and drew a double minor for high sticking late in the first period. Six seconds into the four-minute advantage, McGinn swatted the rebound of Barrie's long shot under Pavelec with 17.5 seconds left in the first to tie the game 1-1.

The Avalanche lost defenseman Erik Johnson to a big hit from Jets defenseman Mark Stuart in the third period. He did not return to the game, and Roy said afterward that he did not yet know Johnson's status.

Little's team-leading fifth goal of the season personified a Jets team that finally broke through against Varlamov and a Colorado team that frustrated the Jets with 34 blocked shots.

"He's a good No. 1 center," Jets coach Paul Maurice said of Little. "His compete level is really, really high. He has got skills, and I knew that kind of coming in, but I didn't realize what kind of practice player he was. He comes to work every day. He competes every day. He is not the biggest guy."

Jets right wing Blake Wheeler ranks second on the Jets with five points and believes that Winnipeg will begin to produce more offense.

"We are going to score more goals," Wheeler said. "We're getting opportunities. We need to be comfortable playing these types of games and being patient. I think that sooner or later we're going to get this thing to break open and get guys feeling good about themselves. Until then, we just have to bear down."

For the Avalanche, who finished fourth last season in the NHL with 2.99 goals per game en route to a 112-point season, goals have been difficult to find. So far this season, Colorado has averaged 2.22 goals per game, 26th in the League.

Nathan MacKinnon had 24 goals as a rookie last season, but has gone scoreless in his first nine games this season. Center Ryan O'Reilly scored 28 times last season but has managed one goal in nine games.

"He just needs to continue to work hard, and it will happen for him," Roy said of MacKinnon. "It doesn't have to be the perfect goal. Sometimes you put pucks on net, and good things happen."

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