Jets end three-game losing skid with victory at Buffalo

Mark Ludwiczak, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

BUFFALO -- Maybe a little time away from home was what the Winnipeg Jets needed after all.
After losing three straight games on their own ice, the Jets kicked off a season-long five-game road trip with a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night at the First Niagara Center.
"It's been a pretty frustrating little bit of time for us," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "We got some good games from a lot of people and we found a way to win the game and we found a way to win a game the right way. For us, that was the important thing."
Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd scored for the Jets (6-8-1). Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 29 saves.
Jason Pominville scored the lone goal for the Sabres (6-10-1). Ryan Miller had 26 saves for Buffalo.
The Jets jumped out to an early lead and took advantage of critical mistakes by the Sabres on each of their goals.
In the game's opening minute, Evander Kane gained control of the puck behind the Buffalo net and fed Little, who was wide open in the slot. Little's point-blank shot gave Winnipeg a 1-0 lead at the 1:00 mark.
Just under six minutes into the second period, another Sabres miscue -- this time, an errant breakout pass from Nathan Gerbe -- was intercepted by Winnipeg's Ron Hainsey inside the Buffalo zone. Hainsey then fed Ladd, the Jets captain, for his eighth goal of the year.
Unlike Sunday's loss to the Boston Bruins -- when the Jets gave up a 2-1 lead to Boston, eventually losing 3-2 -- the Jets clamped down defensively and gave the struggling Sabres few clear chances on net. Pominville scored Buffalo's only goal at the end of the second period on a 3-on-1 rush.
"It was good because we didn't want to go done the same path as we've been (doing) for more than enough times than I'd like to think about," Noel said. "I thought that after that goal we buckled down and came back and did the right things."
Pavelec, playing in his 200th NHL game, was rock solid between the pipes for Winnipeg. His best saves came with one minute remaining on Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek.
"He made some key saves, was big in the net, was very focused," Noel said. "I thought he was outstanding, which we know is the way he is capable of playing."
The Sabres, meanwhile, struggled to find their footing for much of the game. Buffalo has now lost four of its last five games and 11 of its last 15. The Sabres were booed off the ice by their home crowd after the first period, and those jeers continued well into the second period due to the lackluster display on the ice.
"I understand it," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of the crowd reaction. "I totally understand it. I'm embarrassed. ... We need to take a hard look at everything."
Defensive problems continue to be the Sabres' biggest area of concern. Each of Winnipeg's goals came directly off Buffalo turnovers in the Sabres' own end.
"I think we've got to be better in our zone and in different areas like we've talked about," Pominville said. "We're not playing good enough without the puck."
"It's obviously disappointing and frustrating," Pominville continued. "We've got to be better, we've got to dig ourselves out of this. We're not in an easy situation, we know that. It's going to take a lot of work. ... We can't sit here and feel sorry for ourselves, we've got to keep looking at what's ahead of us and hopefully get on a run soon."
The Jets hope that this win can get them going during a particularly difficult stretch on the schedule. Winnipeg's next four games are on the road, and eight of its next 10 games are away from home.
"It's nice to get a win," Ladd said. "Three straight losses, we wanted to get a good feeling back in the room and start this road trip off on the right foot. I thought we played a solid game for 60 minutes."
NOTES: Jordan Leopold, Mikhail Grigorenko and Andrej Sekera were scratched by the Sabres. Leopold, a nine-year veteran, has struggled on the back end this year for Buffalo and was tied for a team-worst minus-7 with teammate Tyler Myers heading into the game. ... Anthony Peluso and Zach Redmond were scratched by the Jets. ... Struggling Sabres forward Drew Stafford (one goal, six assists) began the game with a demotion to Buffalo's fourth line. He was promoted to a different line after a few shifts. ... This was the first meeting between the two teams this season. It was the 49th game all-time between Buffalo and Winnipeg. Buffalo leads the series with a 21-17-11 record.

What to Read Next