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As far as he knows, Bryan Little doesn’t possess any superpowers. But the veteran Winnipeg Jets centre could get used to playing the role of hockey hero who swoops in to save the day.
For the second time this week, Little pulled the trigger on the game-winning goal and helped salvage a valuable two points for his team.
Last Sunday it was with just over two minutes left in the game to break a 1-1 tie against Carolina in an eventual 3-1 win. On Thursday night, it was with just over 15 minutes left in the game to break a 1-1 tie against Vancouver in an eventual 4-1 win.
No, this is not a recording. But it’s something Little and his teammates would certainly welcome becoming a regular thing.
Winnipeg improves to 4-2-1 on the year, while Vancouver falls to 4-3-0. The Canucks had won three straight games against Tampa Bay, Florida and Pittsburgh prior to arriving in River City to wrap up a six-game road trip.
Thursday’s final result might suggest this one was relatively easy night at the office for the Jets. But the fact is the game was very much up for grabs until the late stages, when Little seemed to light a fire under the Jets and the floodgates opened.
Winnipeg is considered an NHL heavyweight, while Vancouver is seen as one of the league’s weaker links. But through two periods, you would have had a hard time identifying which team was which.
The big turning point came with Vancouver’s Alex Edler in the penalty box for an iffy tripping penalty in which it appeared like Adam Lowry simply lost his footing and fell to the ice.
Little took a pass from linemate Nikolaj Ehlers and beat Anders Nilsson with a nifty backhand to give his team a lead they wouldn’t relinquish 4:58 into the final frame.
The Jets certainly found their legs after that, especially Winnipeg’s much-maligned second line. Little rang a shot off the crossbar a few minutes later, once again off an Ehlers feed, and then Andrew Copp swatted home a loose puck to make it 3-1.
Little then factored in the final goal, finding a wide-open Dustin Byfuglien for the perfect-one timer with just over five minutes left in the contest.
Patrik Laine opened the scoring late in the first period, firing a shot from his familiar spot on the power play. It was the third goal of the year for Laine, all of them coming with the man-advantage.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler served up a perfect cross-seam pass to Laine and hit a milestone on the play, recording his 500th point with the Winnipeg franchise.
Vancouver’s Bo Horvat tied the game midway through the second period, beating Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba off the rush and sneaking the puck past Connor Hellebuyck.
Hellebuyck finished 26 saves, while Nilsson stopped 28 of 32 pucks fired his way.
Winnipeg continues their season-long six-game homestand on Saturday afternoon against the Arizona Coyotes. They are 2-0-1 at the midway point.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.