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Jets keep pace in East with OT win over 'Canes

The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets love that home cooking.

The Jets found another way to win at the sold-out MTS Centre as Dustin Byfuglien scored in overtime to lift the hosts to 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.

Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin had tied the game 3-3 with just 1:12 left in the third period and goalie Justin Peters on the bench.

Winnipeg (23-19-2) earned its fifth straight triumph, all coming at home since April 6. During the successful stretch, the Jets have three convincing wins to go with one in a shootout and now one in overtime to keep things interesting in the Eastern Conference.

Byfuglien scored his eighth goal of the season just 1:23 into the extra frame, beating Peters on a rebound. Jets' captain Andrew Ladd carried the puck into the Carolina zone and blasted a shot that bounced off Peters' pad and went straight to Byfuglien in the low slot.

Ladd finished the game with three assists.

"Laddy was by himself and I just went up," Byfuglien said. "I think he shot it off that pad on purpose, and I got the rebound. I thought he would (pass) but it was probably easier for him to shoot.

"Thank God (the rebound) went in."

Capturing two points was crucial for the Jets, who stayed locked up in eighth place in the conference with the New York Rangers, who beat the Florida Panthers 6-1 on Thursday and still have a game in hand on the Jets.

But Winnipeg climbed to within two points of the Washington Capitals, who lead the Southeast Division. The Caps were dumped 3-1 by the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

"These are intense games," said Winnipeg defenseman Ron Hainsey. "Every point is most critical now. That's just the reality."

The Jets and Caps both have four games remaining, and they play each other next week in Washington.

With just over a week left in the abbreviated season, there is simply no room for error.

"You feel the pressure a little bit, but as a professional you are just playing another game," said Bogosian, who had a goal and an assist Thursday and has six points over his last three games. "As far as how intense the games are and how close they've been, I guess that could kind of roll over to somewhat of a playoff series (feel).

"These are definitely fun to play in. The tight games always feel good, after the fact when you're in the room and you get the W."

Paul Postma and Blake Wheeler also scored for the Jets.

Tuomo Ruutu had two goals for the Hurricanes.

The loss officially eliminated Carolina (17-24-1) from the playoff race. The club remains second-to-last in the conference, ahead of only Florida.

The Hurricanes have won just two of their last 18 games.

But head coach Kirk Muller had only good things to say about his club afterward.

"What I'm most happy about is our guys have not dropped their energy or their competitive level," he said. "The way they're coming out and performing and competing, I think that's great experience for our core group of guys and it's a good challenge for them."

Ondrej Pavelec made 23 saves in the Winnipeg net while Peters stopped 27 shots.

The Jets host the red-hot New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon.

"This is the fun time of the year, and we've got a lot of work ahead of us still and we've got to keep going," said Byfuglien, who dished out some punishing hits as well. "We'll enjoy this for a couple more minutes and then get focused on Saturday."

The Jets scored the only goal of the opening period at 12:13 when Bogosian joined Little and Ladd on a three-on-two, took a pass and chipped the puck past Peters for his fourth of the year.

Tested just three times in the first period, Pavelec had to be rock-solid in the second period and, at times, absolutely brilliant. Just over five minutes into the period, with Carolina pressing for the equalizer on the power play, he threw out the paddle of his goal stick to knock down what looked like a sure goal by blueliner Justin Faulk, who had been staring at an open cage.

Less than a minute later, he gloved a low shot by Chad Larose to snuff out another quality scoring chance.

Ignited by his acrobatics, the Jets pressed, drew a penalty and went up 2-0 on a power-play goal by Postma, his fourth of the year.

The Hurricanes cut the lead in half midway through the second period when Ruutu notched his first of the year, firing a wrist shot through traffic past Pavelec.

Wheeler and Ruutu traded third-period goals, and then Semin tied things on a rebound with 72 seconds remaining in the period.

NOTES: Hurricanes' forward Jeff Skinner did not play Thursday. He's back in Raleigh, N.C., undergoing tests to determine the extent of a head injury suffered Tuesday in Ottawa when he was leveled near center ice by Senators' defenseman Jared Cowen. No penalty was called on Cowen for the hit, and no disciplinary action was taken by the NHL. Skinner, 20, missed 16 games last season with a concussion, and was out five games this season after being knocked into the boards in a game Feb. 14. ... Mike Santorelli, picked up from Florida at the trade deadline, scored in the shootout Tuesday for the Jets in a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay, improving his career shootout record to a remarkable 10 goals on 19 attempts (52.6 percent). ... Carolina blueliner Joni Pitkanen, who suffered a broken bone in his foot April 2 against Washington, underwent surgery this week. He should be ready for the start of NHL training camp in September. ... Veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey has been named the Jets' nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually by the NHL to a player who exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Hainsey, 32, has registered 12 assists, is among the league leaders in shots blocked and has just 10 penalty minutes this season. He was also front-and-center as a player representative during negotiations to end the NHL lockout. ... The Hurricanes are near the bottom of the NHL's overall standings, but it's not from a lack of trying to fill the net. The club led the league in shots per game (32.8) prior to Thursday's action. ... Ladd's assist on Bogosian's first-period goal was the 300th point of his NHL career.
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