Nik Antropov notched the first one. Kyle Connor fired the last one. In between, there have been 1,870 other goals scored by the Winnipeg Jets since returning to the NHL to start the 2011-12 season, not including shootouts or pre-season games.
Add it all up and that’s a lot of red lights, cellies and group hugs.
(They told me there wouldn’t be math in sports. They lied).
Not every tally is created equally, of course. Some were rather meaningless regular-season markers in blowout losses or victories that were quickly forgotten. Others carried a lot more punch, either as milestone moments or because of the significance of when they occurred.
With the season currently on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic and goal lights around the league currently collecting dust, it’s a great time to take stock of some of the most memorable snipes in Jets 2.0 history.
This was a meeting of local hockey minds, as I consulted with Free Press colleagues Jason Bell, Mike Sawatzky, Jeff Hamilton and Taylor Allen, along with TSN Jets broadcasters Dennis Beyak, Paul Edmonds and Brian Munz, to compile an extensive list spanning all nine seasons.
I then whittled that down to a personal Top 10, ranked by significance, along with five others that just missed the cut.
Let the debate about my ultimate findings begin:
10. Nik Antropov beats Carey Price at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 9, 2011
The only goal on this list that came in a losing effort.
The Jets came down with a case of stage fright and fell behind the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 in their much-anticipated debut. Early in the third period, however, fans finally got their chance to erupt.
Mark Stuart put a shot on net through heavy traffic, which included teammates Brett MacLean and Antropov in front of Price. Antropov was hauled down seconds earlier and a delayed penalty was coming to Montreal. But it wasn’t necessary as Antropov picked himself back up and managed to get his stick on the loose puck, sliding it past Price before he was again taken down, leading to a celebration on his backside.
I actually wonder if the goal would even count by today’s standards, as MacLean looks to be committing what is now frequently flagged as goaltender interference. In any event, the Jets had life, cutting the deficit in half, but that’s as close as they’d get in an eventual 5-1 defeat.
“Easily the loudest crowd I have ever been a part of and although we lost, I was lucky enough to be on the ice for the first goal and all I remember is the roar of the crowd, that will sit with me forever,” MacLean recently told the Free Press.
9. Bryan Little beats David Rittich at Mosaic Stadium on Oct. 26, 2019
Regulation settled nothing in Winnipeg’s second-ever outdoor game. And that set the stage for the veteran Little to play the role of hero, taking a sweet feed from Connor on a two-on-one for the tap-in overtime winner during three-on-three action.
“It was definitely frustrating watching from the sidelines and not getting to experience it,” Little said of missing the 2016 Heritage Classic against Edmonton due to injury. “So, when I heard we were playing outside I definitely had this one circled on my calendar and it definitely lived up to everything,”
It wasn’t just that this was a big goal on a big stage. It was perhaps the lone highlight of the year for Little, who missed the first nine games of the season with a concussion and returned for just seven before he suffered a year-ending, career-threatening ear and head injury after being struck with an errant slap shot from Nikolaj Ehlers.
The much-needed victory also helped stop a 1-4-0 skid for the Jets and seemingly helped launch a November to remember in which they went 10-3-1 to get right back in the playoff race.
8. Joe Morrow beats Devan Dubnyk at Bell MTS Place on Apr. 11, 2018
The veteran journeyman defenceman has just 10 goals on his NHL resume, but none bigger than the one that gave the Jets their first playoff victory in 2.0 history.
His one-timer from the point, off a nifty backhand feed from Nikolaj Ehlers, deflected off Charlie Coyle and went right through Dubnyk’s five-hole with just over seven minutes left in the third period. It broke a 2-2 deadlock and stood up as the game-winner.
Talk about a feel-good moment. Morrow was only in the lineup that night because of injuries to regulars Toby Enstrom and Dmitry Kulikov as the first-round series got underway.
“If you believe in karma and trying to be a good person and eventually you get rewarded for it? Yeah, absolutely,” Morrow said in an emotional post-game interview. “I’ve had a major roller coaster of an NHL career so far. To have a little, I don’t even know if you want to call it a Cinderella story of a night, it makes you feel good. It makes all of the bad times and all of the times you’ve battled so hard to try and get an opportunity, it makes them go away. It washes them away and you get to enjoy it in front of a crowd like this and a city like this.”
7. Tanner Glass beats Marc-Andre Fleury at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 17, 2011
Three straight losses to start the first season took some of the shine off the honeymoon phase for the Jets. And a date with the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins suggested they’d have to wait a bit longer for their first victory.
Cue the GST line.
Tasked with shutting down the Penguins high-powered offence, the trio of Glass, Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn did an effective job, and then some. Glass blasted a shot past Fleury late in a dominant opening period, giving the Jets a 2-0 lead and earning a raucous standing ovation in what was an eventual 2-1 triumph.
Glass scored just five goals in his only season with the Jets, but this was truly one to remember.
“At the end of the day, it has to come from within this room. I think it just gives you a good feeling when you’re doing the right things of what it takes. The feeling in here right now is just so much better than after those three losses,” Jets captain Andrew Ladd said following the game.
6. Patrik Laine beats Frederik Andersen for his third goal of the game at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 19, 2016
Oh what a night this was for Jets fans.
The home team dug themselves a 4-0 deficit against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first-ever meeting between the top two draft picks from the previous summer in Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.
But with a national audience looking on, Laine took over, scoring three times including the overtime winner on the rush — which came mere seconds after Matthews was stopped on a breakaway by Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson.
“Hat trick” Laine was born.
“I think it was just a normal regular-season game,” Laine cracked, displaying the kind of dry wit that has become his hallmark.
5. Mathieu Perreault beats Al Montoya for his fourth goal of the game at Bell MTS Place on Jan. 13, 2015
Otherwise known as the night Gail McDonald nearly won $1 million.
Perreault exploded for four goals against Florida, his final one coming in the second period, in an 8-2 rout of the Panthers. And McDonald, an elementary school principal from Brandon, was on the edge of her seat, knowing one more tally would mean a hefty payday through the Safeway Score and Win promotion.
And he had his chances for No. 5, too, including a third period breakaway that just missed.
“I wish I knew, Sorry Gail!” Perreault said in a memorable post-game interview after being informed of the high stakes.
4. Jacob Trouba beats Devan Dubnyk at Bell MTS Place on Apr. 18, 2018
With a chance to win their first playoff series in franchise history, Jacob Trouba and his Jets teammates quickly stepped on the throat of the Minnesota Wild.
Trouba took a pass from Mark Scheifele and wired a wrist shot past Dubnyk just 31 seconds into the game, sending an already electric home crowd into a full-blown frenzy. The Jets would quickly pile on with three more goals in that opening frame, and the Wild were reeling.
The end result was a convincing 5-0 victory and a date with the Nashville Predators in the second round.
“It couldn’t have gone any worse at the start for us, and it couldn’t have gone any better for them,” Wild forward Eric Staal said.
3. Jacob Trouba beats Pekka Rinne at Bell MTS Place on May 1, 2018
After splitting the first two games in Music City, the Jets were back in front of their Whiteout-clad fans for the next biggest game in franchise history. It didn’t exactly go as planned off the hop, as Winnipeg fell behind Nashville 3-0 through 20 minutes.
Cue the comeback. The Jets rallied for four goals in the middle frame, perhaps none bigger than Trouba’s which tied the game just 18 seconds after Dustin Byfuglien had made it a one-goal game.
The Jets had all the momentum of a runaway freight train, which they carried to a convincing 7-4 comeback victory and a 2-1 series lead.
“That’s probably the most charged I’ve ever seen that building. It was a super frantic play in the Preds end and he was stationed right in front of Rinne,” recalled Free Press colleague Jason Bell.
“We got kicked in the teeth a little bit in the first, and our team has always responded well this year, whether it be a bad game or a bad period,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler.
2. Patrik Laine beats Jake Allen for his fifth goal of the game at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24, 2018
Without question, Laine’s biggest night in his biggest month as a pro.
The Finnish sniper was on fire, setting a franchise record with five goals as the Jets routed the St. Louis Blues 8-4. He finished November with 18 goals, the first NHL player to score that much in any month since Mario Lemieux in 1996.
The puck seemed to follow Laine around all night, including his milestone fifth marker in which he was somehow left all alone in front of Allen. And that meant Winnipegger Christopher Haley would pocket a cool $1 million as part of the Score and Win contest.
“Just try to score, try not to celly so hard,” Laine said of his plan as the pucks kept going in.
1. Paul Stastny beats Pekka Rinne at Bridgestone Arena on May 10, 2018
This is all about the moment. And you can take your pick on which Stastny goal was actually more significant — the one midway through the first period to give Winnipeg a 2-0 lead in a win-or-go-home Game 7, or the one midway through the third period which increased Winnipeg’s advantage to 4-1 and snuffed out any hope of a comeback by the Predators.
If we had to pick, it’s Stastny’s first tally — backhanding his own rebound in — which chased Rinne from the game and clearly put the Jets in the driver’s seat as they ultimately cruised to the Western Conference final for the first time ever.
“In games like this, sometimes you don’t want to shoot from everywhere, but I think when you’re in tight like that you want to shoot it,” Stastny said. “Just because those are always kind of those awkward saves for goalies, and they give up rebounds,” said Stastny, the trade deadline addition who proved his worth in a big way in this game alone.
Until the Jets can take an even bigger step towards the Stanley Cup, it will be tough to top this performance.
A few that just missed the cut, but were still pretty big:
— Little’s third goal against Colorado on Dec, 5, 2014 which marked the first hat trick in Jets 2.0 history and sparked an impressive comeback victory.
— Brandon Tanev’s rather improbable hat trick on March 27, 2018 in a shootout win against Boston.
— Laine’s first, second and third goals on Nov. 1, 2018 while playing in his home country of Finland as part of the NHL’s Global Series.
— Josh Morrissey’s goal late in the third period on Oct. 26, 2019 to tie the Heritage Classic against Calgary.
— Blake Wheeler’s goal on Dec. 20, 2019 in his home state of Minnesota to tie Ilya Kovalchuk for the franchise lead in points.
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.
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