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Setoguchi busts out of slump, leads Jets to win

The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- It's only fitting Devin Setoguchi donned an aviator's helmet when he faced the press Friday night.

The Winnipeg Jets right winger was the man behind the controls, blasting out of a brutal scoring slump with a pair of goals to lift his squad to a 4-3 triumph over the Vancouver Canucks.

Setoguchi fired his ninth and 10th goals of the year past Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack, the second coming off a tremendous cross-ice pass from blue-liner Jacob Trouba at 17:04 of the final period to snap a 3-3 tie and give the hosts a clean two points against their Western Conference rivals.

The Jets (26-25-5) pulled to within six points of the Canucks (27-20-9) for the final wild-card spot in the conference.

Vancouver is now a loser of four of its last five games.

Canucks defenseman Jason Garrison scored his sixth goal of the year with just over eight minutes remaining in the third period to knot the score at 3.

Setoguchi struggled mightily this season, registering just one goal in his last 26 games, but was easily the Jets best player on this night.

And his teammates agreed, tossing him the helmet with a dark-tinted eye shield and demanding he wear it during a post-game media scrum.

"We just started this today. I get to put the helmet on," he said. "It's for player of the game, I guess.

"It's comfortable, and I don't have to look at you guys."

Setoguchi was engaged for the entire 60 minutes, throwing a number of punishing body checks and creating offensive chances -- a break-out game of sorts.

"You guys know the stats more than I do. It's always nice to get on the board and contribute, for sure," he said. "It's been tough. Mentally, it drains a lot of energy out of you. But that's part of being a pro -- trying to get out of it and, hopefully, this is the start of something. It's just one game, but I have a lot of work to do to keep it going."

Setoguchi, acquired during the offseason from Minnesota for a second-round pick to provide some scoring, said he's tried to contribute in other ways during the drought.

"You try and do other things. If that means being physical or blocking shots or getting in on the forecheck, that's the stuff you have to do," he said. "I've had a couple of good talks with coach (Paul Maurice) the last couple of days, and he's kept me pretty motivated."

Winnipeg has now won seven of its last nine games since Maurice took over behind the bench after Claude Noel was fired Jan. 12.

On the winning goal, Trouba showed great patience for a rookie defenseman to find Setoguchi alone in the high slot.

"I was just kind of skating down the wing, (Blake) Wheeler was going to the net, and I just kind of pulled up and heard Seto yelling late, got him the puck and he put it in," said Trouba, noting the victory in regulation was critical.

"In our conference, we have to keep beating teams ahead of us and make some ground up. This was big win, a step in the right direction," he said

Center Ryan Kesler scored his 19th goal of the season and added two assists for the Canucks. Blue-liner Alexander Edler scored his fourth goal of the season.

Defenseman Zach Bogosian, with his third goal of the year, and right winger Michael Frolik, with his 11th, also scored for the Jets.

The club now has 11 scorers in double digits.

"I don't think it's surprising anyone in this group. We have a lot of confidence in our lines right now, we're a threat on ever level," said Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd, who had a pair of assists.

Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 23 saves in a winning effort, while Lack did all he could to help his club out with a 30-save performance.

He said losing late was a bitter pill to swallow.

"It's not the first time it's happened for us, either," Lack said. "It feels like we're talking about the same things all the time."

A clearly frustrated Vancouver assistant coach Mike Sullivan felt his club deserved a better fate.

"We fought our way back in the game. I thought we had all the momentum in the third period," he said. "I give our guys credit, but we've got to find a way to win that game.

"Eddie gave us a chance to win. He's a competitor for us. I'm sure it was disappointing for him. It was disappointing for all of us."

The game was the first of five on the road for the struggling Canucks. The trip continues next week with stops in Detroit, Boston, Montreal and Toronto before the Olympic break.

Winnipeg plays its next four games away from home, starting with the Canadiens on Sunday afternoon in Montreal, before the Olympic break begins Feb. 9.

NOTES: Jets fans have seen them all now. Vancouver was the last team to visit MTS Centre for a regular-season game since the NHL returned to Winnipeg in 2011. ... G Roberto Luongo did not dress Friday night but received a thunderous ovation from Winnipeg fans when the teams' Olympic participants were recognized. The Canucks will send eight players to Sochi and the Jets have Olympians. ... The game was the last one that Vancouver coach John Tortorella had to miss because of a 15-day suspension. Tortorella got in trouble with the NHL for entering the Calgary dressing room area on Jan. 18 after the first period of a game marred by a line brawl after the opening face-off. He's eligible to be behind the bench again on Monday in Detroit against the Red Wings. ... After starting the season a modest 6-15-4 against Western Conference opponents, Winnipeg has gone 8-2-0 in their own conference since Dec. 27.
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