The Winnipeg Jets played like a turbo booster propelled their skates during the first half of Saturday’s matinee. Good thing Ondrej Pavelec played the whole time.
Despite rolling up a 5-1 advantage roughly midway through regulation thanks to a parade of defensive miscues and penalties by Philadelphia, the Jets fell prey to their own defensive follies but managed to escape with a 6-4 victory at MTS Centre.
Bryan Little scored twice, Dustin Byfuglien notched a goal and two assists, while Nik Antropov netted a key empty-net score late for Winnipeg.
Pavelec wound up with 27 stops in the contest, though he was good on 11-of-13 in the final 20 minutes.
His counterpart, Sergei Bobrovsky, took the loss after surrendering five goals on 39 shots. Unlike in the 9-8 setback on home ice, Peter Laviolette chose not to pull the trigger on a goalie change with a four-goal deficit.
The 23-year-old repaid that trust by shutting down the hosts for the remainder of the game, but the Flyers simply ran out of time.
Scott Hartnell led the way with two goals and a helper, Matt Read collected two third-period goals to stoke the near comeback, and Claude Giroux added three assists in defeat — the first for Philly in regulation since that colossal score-fest between these clubs back on October 27.
The visitors were down by three and already wasted a power-play chance when the presumptive Calder Trophy favorite went to work.
He took a long pass from Hartnell in the neutral zone, took on a Winnipeg defender down the right wing, then unleashed a wicked slapshot that clanged loudly off the far pipe and it to make it 5-3 at 8:32.
Two more advantages fell by the wayside and more than eight minutes bled off the clock as the Flyers peppered Pavelec with shots from every angle. Read again sailed down the right-wing side and cranked up another shot which sailed inside the far post for a 5-4 contest with 2:14 showing.
Bobrovsky was pulled three times in the final 1:45 of regulation, and Laviolette was burned on the second try and Antropov flicked his fourth of the year into an open net past a strangely-passive Chris Pronger.
A 3-1 Jets lead after one could have been much, much worse, as the Flyers appeared to have hit the ice caught by the same deep freeze that has gripped the Canadian prairies.
Less than five minutes in, and with the Flyers shorthanded due to a bench minor, Little slid a shot home from in close. He struck again at even strength just over two minutes later when his wrister from the bottom of the left circle slipped home off the outside of Bobrovsky’s glove.
Andrew Ladd made it 3-0 on another power play at the 10:15 mark, when Byfuglien and Kyle Wellwood worked a passing play to the right wing, and the Jets captain finished it off with a lightning-quick tap-in from the left side.
Hartnell was credited with the Flyers’ opening goal of the game coming with 6:33 remaining as a Pronger rocket from the point apparently made contact on its way to the back of the net.
Less than four minutes into the second period, Johnny Oduya sat for hooking, but it didn’t matter to the home team, who bedeviled their foes with expert checking.
That work eventually paid off in Jim Slater’s successful wrister off a 2-on-1 break, and Winnipeg found itself up 4-1 at 4:45.
After that, the Flyers took four straight penalties — with the crucial pair happening simultaneously when Matt Carle was nabbed for holding and Danny Briere was caught for high sticking at the 8:36 mark.
The Orange and Black had almost survived the two-man disadvantage, but Byfuglien caught Bobrovsky playing a pass into the slot, and the former Blackhawk slid a shot from the right circle near the goal line off the goaler’s pad for a 5-1 score.
Hartnell finally ended the madness when he emphatically ripped home a Pronger pass from the slot on a power play at 13:27, but the three-goal margin after two ultimately proved to be too big an obstacle to overcome.
Notes: The record for margin of victory by a Winnipeg club against Philadelphia at home is four, set in 6-2 wins on February 24, 1982 and January 27, 1985…The Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise has a stranglehold on the series in recent years, taking nine of the last 10 matchups…The Flyers have not won in Manitoba’s capital since a 4-2 decision on April 6, 1993…Little notched his 11th career two-goal game…Wellwood and Blake Wheeler added two assists each for Winnipeg…Pronger posted two assists…With his three-assist performance, Giroux temporarily moved atop the scoring ledger in the NHL with 26 points (11G, 15A), one ahead of Toronto’s Phil Kessel…Read has a four-game goal streak (5G)…Winnipeg has outscored Philadelphia 15-12 in the two meetings this season, and the next is scheduled for January 31 in Philly.