Sweet start, but sour finish as Jets rally past Penguins
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby scores his second goal against Winnipeg Jets' goaltender Ondrej Pavelec during the first period in Winnipeg, Manitoba
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Winnipeg coach Claude Noel warned against putting undue emphasis on this game.
He did not believe that any serious conclusions should be drawn from it, regardless of who his team was facing or how it fared.
The time, he insisted, simply was not right for such things.
"It's too early to have this as a measuring-stick game," Noel said after the Jets' game-day skate Friday.
His position was understandable, considering that the season is just a week old, but Noel might have been tempted to recant -- or, at least, rethink -- his stance after Winnipeg's 4-2 victory against the Penguins at the MTS Centre Friday night.
Because if the Jets are truly as impressed by the Penguins as they professed to be, they had to be more impressed by themselves after rebounding from a 2-0 deficit with four unanswered goals.
The Jets kept their composure and focus when they easily could have lost both after falling behind by a couple during the first 15 minutes, and exploited the opportunities created when the Penguins gave away the puck.
Which happened quite a bit during the second period.
"We obviously turned some pucks over and made some mistakes," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "Some big mistakes on our part."
The Penguins also lost their first game in Winnipeg last season, but they won on their second time in, so they fared better than most visitors.
Winnipeg was 23-13-5 at the MTS Centre in 2011-12, but just 14-22-5 in away games.
Had the Jets been anywhere near as successful on the road as they were at home, they likely would have slipped into the playoffs.
"We played great at home last year," Jets right winger Blake Wheeler said. "We're very comfortable in this building. I guess our goal is to try to make the opposition uncomfortable in our building, and our fans do a pretty good job of doing that for us."
Before the game, it was noted that Rogers Arena in Vancouver and the MTS Centre were the only current NHL buildings where Crosby had not recorded a point.
He had a pretty good excuse for being shut out in Winnipeg, since he didn't dress for either of the Penguins' games here in 2011-12, the first in the league for this incarnation of the Jets.
Nonetheless, he didn't need much time to scratch that one off the list.
Not long after the crowd began to taunt him with a chant of "Mario's Pool Boy," Crosby responded with a goal that gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead. He got it at 4:26 of the first period, when he beat Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec on the short side from inside the left circle.
The fans decided to go after Crosby in a different way later in the period -- they booed loudly whenever he had the puck -- but that didn't work out so well for the Jets, either.
At 14:58, Crosby cut left to right into the slot and threw a backhander past Pavelec for his second of the period.
The goal was Crosby's 614th career point, moving him past Ron Francis and into fourth place on the franchise's all-time list.
Evander Kane sliced the Penguins' lead in half just 70 seconds into the second period, when he capped a passing play by throwing a shot past Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun from the left hash mark.
Coach Dan Bylsma noted that the Penguins had "five, four tired guys on the ice," when there was a turnover that culminated in that scoring sequence.
Pavelec made a series of quality stops after Kane's goal to keep the Jets within one. He denied Evgeni Malkin from close range at 2:46, then stopped Malkin twice and Tyler Kennedy once during a sequence just under seven minutes into the period.
"If one of those goes in, it could have changed the game," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said.
Winnipeg rewarded Pavelec with a power-play goal at 13:35, as Dustin Byfuglien hammered a slap shot from the right point past Vokoun, who was being screened by Nik Antropov.
The Jets' surge continued when Bryan Little took the puck to the net, then set up Andrew Ladd in the right circle for what became the winner at 17:53.
The Penguins couldn't get another puck past Pavelec, however, and Wheeler scored an empty-net goal at 18:52 of the third to assure that Winnipeg would take the measure of the Penguins.
And give Noel a pretty encouraging measurement of where his team stands a week into the season. Whether he wanted it or not.
First Published January 26, 2013 12:00 am