WINNIPEG — Blake Wheeler had to be honest — it was not the Winnipeg Jets‘ prettiest win. But it will do.
Bryan Little put away the winner with just over two minutes left in the third period as the Jets topped the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Sunday night as Winnipeg began a six-game homestand.
“I’m not going to pretend we’re firing on all cylinders right now but we’re grinding,” said Wheeler after the win.
Patrik Laine set things up with the first goal of the game earlier in the third and Kyle Connor added one into an empty net with a second to go. Micheal Ferland scored Carolina’s only goal, in a game that started out looking like it was the Hurricanes’ to lose.
The Jets (3-2-0) were swarmed by Carolina (4-1-1) in the scoreless first period, outshot 18-6, and coughed up the puck often to put pressure on new backup goalie Laurent Brossoit.
But Wheeler said there was no panic or theatrics in the dressing room.
“There was no coming to Jesus speech we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel,” said the Winnipeg captain. “There’s an element of patience and being positive five games in to the season that you know you just stay with it and find a way to get two points. Tomorrow we’ll try to get better. Hopefully the next game we’ll be quicker.”
Jets head coach Paul Maurice agreed with Wheeler.
“We knew going into the game that the puck wasn’t going to get moved well or easily,” said Maurice. “That game wasn’t going to look like you would hope it would. It hasn’t for any of their opponents. Nobody’s beat them in regulation. They’re on fire right now. We had our challenges all night with them and still found a way to create some pretty good offence.”
Brossoit made 42 saves for Winnipeg, while Petr Mrazek made stopped 23-of-25 shots for the Hurricanes
Ferland said it was a frustrating loss but that overall there was a lot for Carolina to learn from.
“It’s a tough one, especially to lose that late in the game,” he said. “I thought we kept our foot on the gas the entire game, kept going at them and at them. Their goalie played really good. Our goalie played really good, too. I think we would have at least deserved a point there.”
Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said it was a learning experience for a young team.
“We had some mistakes by our young guys tonight that cost us,” said Brind’Amour. “At the end there, we didn’t quite get it out far enough. We always talk about we’re fighting for inches and we didn’t get it far enough. They come back and counter and it’s in the net.
“It’s a tough learning lesson for these young guys but we believe in them and we will move on for tomorrow.”
Brossoit said his only regret was not stopping all 43 shots.
“If I didn’t let in that one goal. I felt good in the game, and obviously it’s nice to contribute and get that first win out of the way.”
Notes: Winnipeg put Marko Dano on waivers before the game. The 23-year-old forward hasn’t played for the Jets, his third NHL franchise, this season. He was a 2013 first-round draft pick.