WINNIPEG – It’s certainly not the way Bryan Little or the Winnipeg Jets would like to win hockey games.
After blowing a two-goal lead to the Coyotes in the third period, the Jets had to claw and scrape for two points— eventually pulling away with a 4-3 shootout victory against Arizona.
“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves, getting into some penalty trouble at the end,” said Little, who scored the game’s first goal in regulation and then fired home the shootout winner.
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The Jets (25-4-8) made amends for their third period collapse, improving their win streak to four games while earning at least a point in six straight contests dating back to Jan. 10 against the Los Angeles Kings.
“Tonight we let it slip a little bit. Still, it still feels good to get both points,” said Little. “We’d rather not win that way and give up leads, but at the same time we are still managing to get wins and we are still managing to stick with it and come away (with points).”
“It was a really good ending… a really, really good ending,” added Jets head coach Paul Maurice, when asked to characterize the hockey game.
The Jets also saw goals from Michael Frolik and Dustin Byfuglien.
Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves and for the Jets. Mike Smith stopped 27 shots for the Coyotes.
The Coyotes (16-24-5), meanwhile, were left to lick their wounds after watching a heroic comeback eventually end in ruin— and their winless streak extend to five games.
“Obviously, you lose a game and there is not a lot to take out of it,” said captain Shane Doan, who picked up two assists on the night after returning from injury.
“But you’re down 3-1 on the road, on a back-to-back night, that’s a big point to get. To find a way to come back and find a way back into the game, it’s huge. As a team, you have to grow and learn and hopefully be better for the next game.”
The Coyotes tied the game three and a half minutes after Little opened the scoring as Oliver Ekman-Larsson found twine for his 12th of the year. It was the first shot Arizona registered on goal.
Doan, who missed two games due to his lower-body injury, assisted on Ekman-Larsson’s goal— although he admitted he found it tough to get going.
“I didn’t have very good legs,” he said. “You get an assist early and all of the sudden everything feels a little bit better and you feel like you’re involved in the game, but your legs aren’t as good as you want them to be.”
Frolik scored his 10th on a gaffe by the Coyotes with 1:39 gone in the second period to give the Jets a 2-1 lead.
Smith, playing the puck behind his own net, passed it to Connor Murphy, who lost the handle on it. The puck found its way in front of the Coyotes net and onto the stick of Frolik, who made no mistake with the net still vacated.
“I think we are on a roll and we want to keep going,” Frolik said. “I don’t really look to the standings much but obviously we feel pretty good about ourselves. We just need to keep going, keep rolling, don’t change must and just try to get better.”
Smith kept his team within one goal with just moments left on the clock in the second period as he slid from post-to-post to rob Little of his second of the game.
Smith would later make multiple game-saving stops with seconds left on the clock in overtime.
“Huge. (Smith) played great for us all night and made some key saves at key times,” said Coyotes defenceman Keith Yandle.
Byfuglien would extend the Jets’ lead to 3-1 as he wired a wrist shot above a helpless Smith at 9:36 mark of the third after Scheifele found him on a two-on-one break.
But Lauri Korpikoski cut the lead in half with under 10 minutes to go and moments later Tobias Rieder completed the comeback with his sixth on the year at 16:10 of the third to secure a point for the Coyotes.
“I think it is (a morale booster),” said Yandle on the comeback. “It’s a tough building to play in. To tie it up in the third and to get points shows a lot of will and fight in our team and I think we did a good job tonight.”