They were on the course dressed in their shiny new sweaters and hats. They took over the patio at McFadden’s and booed Yotes fans walking by. They even infiltrated the Toyota Club. They are Winnipeg Jets fans. They showed they can travel and know how to yell “Go Jets Go.” Unfortunately for these fans, they could not stop the Coyotes in the home opener at Jobing.com.
Against strobe lights and fog, the boys in red were introduced to a sold out crowd of 17,133. The greatest applause was saved for Captain Shane Doan, playing against the team that drafted him in the first round and have him his start in the NHL, “a surreal moment not lost on him” in a quote after the game. Patrick Lauder belted out the Canadian anthem, the Canadian fans strained to shout out the True North lyric of their anthem in a tribute to their new ownership group. A local trio Arrowheart performed the American anthem, and then it was game on.
How do you take the visiting team’s crowd out of the game while pumping yours? Score on the first shift. Landkow hammered home a Whitney pass from Doan to take the lead with 43 seconds ran off the clock. Oliver Ekman-Larson liked scoring so much against San Jose he pounded home a juicy rebound to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the first period. Bissonnette took a two minute penalty for boarding seconds after Keith Yandle got a stick up under his visor, leading to a couple of nasty cuts around the eye. Yandle was patched up on the bench and didn’t miss a shift. Keith sat at the offensive end of the bench, talking to a couple of Jets but nothing came out of it. I’m pretty confident dinner reservations were not being discussed at this time. The first period ended with the Jets down 2-0.
Second period started with the Coyotes leading in hits, faceoffs won, blocked shots, and most importantly the scoreboard. OEL decided to tie Shane for team lead in goals (3) after a mean slapper from the circle off a Gordon and Pyatt assist. Pyatt got past the defense and OEL jumped into the play and found the rebound for a wide open slapper. Chris Mason made a wave at the puck as it whizzed by him for some top cheddar. 3-0 and the rout was on! Each team took a penalty that netted a few scoring opportunities but both goalies stood strong. Shane and Yandle were the point for the power play and the Yotes kept trying to get Shane open for the knee drop onetimer for the 300th goal of his career. Here he is practicing the move in pregame skates.
With 19 seconds left in the period, Alan Ladd redirected an Enstrom shot past Mike Smith for Winnipeg’s only goal of the game. Scoring this late in the period can produce some good vibes and give them something to come out for in the third period.
Luckily, the Yotes would have none of this. Fans on their feet greeted the team as they came out of the tunnel to start the third. Evander Kane hit Mike Smith hard behind the net and Smith went down. Keith got in the face of Kane, turned his back on him to get back in the play, only to get knocked to the ice with a cross check. A scuffle ensued and the Jets took the opportunity to put the puck in the net after the ref stopped play. The goal was immediately waved off and the Jet fans stayed quiet. The refs gave Kane a two minute interference penalty. Smitty stayed down on the ice for several minutes while the trainers attended to him. Soon Smitty got up, adjusted his pads, and slapped his stick against his pads. Game on! He wears Reebok pads, but they should say Warrior. The PP team goes out on the ice and Whitney put it between the mattresses in front of Mason off a Hanzal and Doan assist, making it 4-1.
6’6″ Nik Antropov got behind the defense for a breakaway on Smitty. Rather than give the clean break, he was hooked. Up goes the ref arm and points immediately to center ice. PENALTY SHOT. The most exciting play in hockey. Antropov put a couple of moves on Smitty, got him to commit and go to the ice and then gave another move. Smitty is face down on the ice, Antropov was on stick side with on open net. MISS! The videoboard replay showed Smitty was able to get just enough of the puck to keep it out of the net. Adrian Aucoin took a hooking penalty but the Jets were unable to capitalize on it thanks to outstanding penalty kill led by Boyd Gordon, Lauri Korpikoski and the entire defensive rotation. Game ends in a 4-1 home opener win for the boys, running their record to 2-1-1 for five points in the Western Conference.
Highlights of the game:
1) Paul not being sucked into a fight while leading 2-0, 3-0, and 3-1. A couple of the Jets were chirping at him, but he showed discipline and didn’t give the Jets bench energy or their fans. His on-ice performance has vastly improved since last year and he is an underrated fourth line grinder.
2) A lot of Jet fans in the building. With their team selling out of season tickets in minutes, they came to Phoenix. As Todd Walsh said, “This is a resort town.” You expect other team’s fans to travel here to see a game. Their money spends just as well as ours.
3) Daymond Langkow, Boyd Gordon and Martin Hanzal are getting it done on the faceoff. The powerplay is getting an extra fifteen seconds in the offensive zone thanks to the face off win. While on the penalty kill, they are winning it and having successful clears, forcing the Jets to come 200 feet.
4) Shane comes off the ice talking to the refs about a penalty that was missed. He is angry. He sees pain on the face of Langkow. Instantly the anger at the refs is gone. His only concern is his teammate. You could not ask for a better man to be your captain or a teammate.
5) A sold out building gives the team a jump. Early scoring keeps the building alive . Wins will keep them coming back.
6) Toyota Club deserves to be recognized for the outstanding food choices they prepared. This could not be said previously. The staff kept the tables cleaned and the drinks coming to keep the capacity crowd happy.