But after a 10-game goalless drought, the Winnipeg Jets winger
was looking for somebody — anybody — when he burst into the
Colorado Avalanche zone early in the overtime period Wednesday
When the lanes for winger Michael Frolich, and then defenseman Paul
Postma, closed up, the U.S. Olympian waited, and waited, and waited,
before finally firing the game winner past Avalanche goaltender Reto
Berra at 1:42 of the extra frame.
The 5-4 victory was just the Jets second in eight games but it kept
their playoffs hopes alive. It improved their record to 32-30-9,
good for 73 points. The Jets are still four points behind the
Phoenix Coyotes, who hold down the last playoff spot in the Western
Conference. The Coyotes have two games in hand.
"I knew Fro (Frolik) and I had a two-on-one and I wanted to get it
over to him. It's been a tough go for me scoring goals so I was
trying to find him. I kept holding on to it and waiting for
something to open up. Then I saw Postie (defenseman Paul Postma)
flying back door, I wanted to slide it open to him and I kept it a
little bit longer. On that little pump fake to Postie, (Berra) slid
over and I looked up and saw that I had the net, I was pretty happy
to finally see it hit the net," he said.
When asked if he had heard the crowd of 15,003 yelling shoot as he
cruised through the slot, seemingly at glacial speed, he laughed and
said it's a good thing the Jets don't listen to the fans.
"I didn't hear anything, my hands and my head and legs finally
connected at the same time," he said.
"My hands have felt good. I've gotten results and helped set up some
teammates. I almost get a bigger joy out of seeing other guys score
than scoring myself. I love to be the guy holding on to the puck and
finding guys who are open and see the joy on their face. It's like a
kid at Christmas sometimes."
Wheeler's patience didn't go unnoticed by Avalanche coach Patrick
"Wheeler made a great play and scored a nice goal. It was a nice
individual effort on the entry. He showed great patience and he's
having a great year for them," he said.
Roy said he was happy with the play of his goaltender, who was
starting his first game with the Avalanche. The Swiss native
previously played for the Calgary Flames.
"I think he got beat on nice shots. You could tell he was a little
bit nervous. When the game was on the line at 4-4, he made some good
saves for us," he said.
"For a first game, he did a good job. He didn't make a lot of big
saves but he didn't let any softies in either. They scored on nice
Jets coach Paul Maurice said he was happy with his team's effort,
particularly Postma, who filled in for fellow defenseman Zach
Bogosian, who came off the ice five minutes into the pre-game
warmup. Postma has missed most of the season due to a blood clot.
[to top of second column]
Maurice thought he was a bit tentative in the first period but
performed well for the rest of the game.
"That's the first time I've seen what he can do. He was out such an
awfully long time. He was a different player (after the first
period). He was coming up the ice with some speed and showing some
things I hadn't seen before," he said.
The see-saw battle had five one-goal leads, with the Jets holding
four of them. The Avalanche opened the scoring 20 seconds into the
game when center Ryan O'Reilly's shot banked off of Jets center
Bryan Little and behind goaltender Al Montoya.
Jets left winger Andrew Ladd responded less than three minutes
The loss dropped the Avalanche to 44-21-5 for 93 points, still well
above the playoff line.
NOTES: The Jets were without RW Dustin Byfuglien, who was injured
late in the team's 3-1 loss to St. Louis on Monday night. ... If a
team's penalty kill translated directly into wins, the Jets would be
sitting in the catbird seat. A streak of 18 straight successful
penalty kills ended in St. Louis on Tuesday. On the road, the Jets
had been successful 40 consecutive times with the man disadvantage.
... Each of the four games between these two teams prior to
Wednesday had been decided by one goal. The Avalanche are 3-0-1. The
Jets are fourth in the league with 38 one-goal games. ... The
Avalanche did not take a pre-game skate Wednesday after arriving in
town following a 6-3 loss in Montreal on Tuesday. ... It marked
Patrick Roy's first game in Montreal as the Avalanche coach. He
played 10 years for the Canadiens, winning two Stanley Cups, before
being traded to the Avalanche in 1995. ... The Avalanche are 4-3-0
in the second game of back-to-back contests this season. ...
Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic was spotted chatting with Jets
owner Mark Chipman in the press box. ... Avalanche LW Cody McLeod
was born in Binscarth, Manitoba (pop. 425), located 3 1/2 hours
northwest of Winnipeg. ... Avalanche C Nathan MacKinnon's 13-game
point streak was stopped March 6, an NHL record for 18-year-olds.
The previous record holder was a kid named Wayne Gretzky in the
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