Little scores 3 as Jets beat Avalanche 6-2
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) One of the Winnipeg Jets' final links to Atlanta was erased on Friday night.
Bryan Little scored three goals to help the Jets beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-2. It was the franchise's first hat trick since Eric Boulton had three goals for the Atlanta Thrashers on Dec. 18, 2010 - a span of 287 games.
''Every time someone gets two goals, it's kind of, `who's going to be the one that finally does it?''' said Little, who had his only other hat trick in the NHL on Dec. 26, 2008. ''We've had a ton of two-goal games. You knew it was a matter of time. I didn't know if it would take this long.''
Chris Thorburn had his first goal of the season, Andrew Ladd had a goal and an assist and Dustin Byfuglien also scored for the Jets.
Blake Wheeler had assists on all of Little's goals and was excited for his linemate and for the Jets to move forward as an organization.
''I was pumped,'' Wheeler said. ''It was something that this team has kind of held over our heads a little bit.
''Having Eric Boulton have the last one, he still keeps in touch with a lot of guys and lets everyone know. So it'll be fun, it'll be fun for some of the guys that are good friends with him to let him know it's over tonight.''
Boulton plays for the New York Islanders now, but was placed on injured reserve last month.
Fans at MTS Centre threw dozens of hats on the ice after Little scored his second and third goals 32 seconds apart early in the third period. He also had an assist.
''Honestly, two of the three goals I didn't celebrate because I didn't know they were in,'' Little said. ''The first one (in the third period), it looked like (Semyon Varlamov's) glove crossed the line but I wasn't sure. The second one, you know I thought it hit the cross bar and I didn't even know until after.''
Jarome Iginla scored both goals for the Avalanche and Gabriel Landeskog had two assists.
Rookie Michael Hutchinson made 20 saves for Winnipeg, which improved to 4-0-1 in its last five games - with the loss coming in overtime to Boston.
Varlamov stopped 25 of 30 shots for Colorado before he was replaced by Reto Berra after Little's third goal at 1:17 of the third period. Berra stopped six of the seven shots he faced.
''That was a big game for us and for them,'' said Colorado center Matt Duchene. ''We're behind them (in the standings) and we should be more desperate than they are. But they came out and dominated us from start to finish. It was a disappointing effort by us. It's not what we need at this time of year, that's for sure.''
Thorburn scored off a rebound from defenseman Paul Postma's point shot, sending the puck over Varlamov at 4:31 of the first period. It was the eighth straight game and 18th of its last 27 Winnipeg scored first.
The Avalanche didn't get their first shot on goal until almost nine minutes into the period and their second resulted in Iginla's fifth goal of the season at 9:19.
Little put the Jets back ahead on a goal that was reviewed, with a ruling that his shot from a sharp angle was caught in Varlamov's glove behind the goal line with 7:31 remaining in the period.
Winnipeg outshot Colorado 16-4 in the first and had a 26-9 advantage through two periods.
Ladd scored his ninth of the season with 45 seconds to go in the second to put Winnipeg up 3-1 when he tipped in defenseman Ben Chiarot's shot for the goal, giving Chiarot his first NHL point in his second career game.
Little scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season 32 seconds apart to open the third period, putting the Jets up 5-1 at 1:17.
Iginla scored his sixth of the season on the power play with 9:36 remaining after Zach Redmond sent a pass across the crease as he was falling and Iginla popped the puck over Hutchinson.
Byfuglien extended his goal-scoring streak to three games with an unassisted blast from the point that beat Berra on the glove side with 6:40 to go.
Winnipeg finished with a 37-22 advantage on shots.
NOTES: Injuries to three Winnipeg defensemen, including the top pair of Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian, meant Byfuglien was back playing defense instead of the wing. ... Grant Clitsome (upper body) is expected to miss about two weeks, Enstrom (lower body) up to three weeks and Bogosian (foot) might be gone four to six weeks. ... Winnipeg hosts Anaheim on Sunday afternoon to finish a three-game homestand. Colorado returns home and doesn't play again until hosting Nashville on Tuesday.