A group of Winnipeg Jets fans cheer on their team during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Mike Carlson
March 14, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Winnipeg Jets appeared headed for their fourth loss in five games. Then midway through the third period, things suddenly changed.

Drew Stafford and Blake Wheeler scored third-period goals as the Jets rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Saturday night.

Ondrej Pavelec made 15 saves for the Jets, who are in the mix for a Western Conference wild-card spot.

''You want to talk about gutting out a win, character, all those cliches, that fits the bill tonight,'' Stafford said.

Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lighting, who dropped two points behind Atlantic Division-leading Montreal. Tampa Bay hosts the Canadiens Monday night.

''The result was justified,'' Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. ''We didn't match their intensity.''

Wheeler put the Jets up 2-1 with 7:16 to play after stealing the puck in the Tampa Bay zone, making a nice stick-handling move on Anton Stralman and beating Andrei Vasilevskiy from the right circle.

''You're starting to wonder a little bit if the nightmare was going to continue,'' Wheeler said.

Stafford had tied it at 1 at the 10-minute mark after Kucherov had been given a 5-minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct after sending Toby Enstrom hard into the end boards at 8:01.

Enstrom skated off the ice holding a towel to the side of his face. The defenseman returned later in the period.

Kucherov opened the scoring 4:13 into the third with a shot from the top of right circle.

Vasilevskiy made a nice save early in the first on Andrew Ladd. He finished with 27 saves.

Pavelec stopped Tyler Johnson's left circle shot during a power play in the final minute of the period.

Winnipeg's Jim Slater had his point blank shot turned aside, while Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman was denied on an in-close backhander during the second.

Jets center Mark Scheifele was out briefly in the second after an open ice hit 3 minutes into the period by Stralman, who was given a tripping penalty.

Winnipeg's Michael Frolik had his eight-game point streak (five goals, eight points) end.

NOTES: Tampa Bay D Matt Carle returned after missing 22 games with an abdominal injury and had an assist. ... Winnipeg D Tyler Myers, who left Thursday's game at Florida with an upper body injury, didn't play. ... The Jets were also without C Bryan Little and D Dustin Byfuglien, who both sat out their fourth straight game with upper body injuries. ... Winnipeg RW Matt Halischuk played after being sidelined 18 games with a foot injury, while D Paul Postma was in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 8.

You May Like