|Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov (1) looks on as Winnipeg Jets' Bryan Little (18) shot zips past him for Little's third goal of the game during third period NHL action in Winnipeg on Friday, December 5, 2014. John Woods/The Canadian Press|
One of the Winnipeg Jets’ final ties to Atlanta finally fell on Friday night.
Bryan Little had a hat trick in a 6-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, the first one for the franchise since Eric Boulton scored a trio of 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.”
Blake Wheeler assisted 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, 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.”
Chris Thorburn scored his first goal of the season, captain Andrew Ladd had a goal and an assist and Dustin Byfuglien also scored for Winnipeg (14-9-4). Byfuglien was back playing defence because of injuries.
Jarome Iginla scored twice for Colorado (9-12-6) , with Gabriel Landeskog assisting on both of them.
Rookie Michael Hutchinson made 20 saves for Winnipeg, which has only had an overtime loss to Boston in its last five games. 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 centre 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.”
Colorado came off a 4-3 overtime loss to Calgary on Thursday, but being tired shouldn’t be an excuse, Duchene said.
“That’s unacceptable,” Duchene said. “We’ve got to be men about this. We’ve got to realize we have to manage the right way. We were lucky to be down 2-1 and then we let in three goals in a matter of, I don’t know, two minutes in the end of the second and the start of the third. It’s not right, it’s not the right way.
“They deserved to beat us 6-2 tonight. The score reflected exactly how the game went.”
Thorburn scored off a rebound from defenceman Paul Postma’s point shot, sending the puck over Varlamov at 4:31 of the first period. Winnipeg has now scored first in its past eight games, and in 18 of its 27 games. Its record in those games is 11-4-3.
“Chris scored tonight?” Wheeler joked with a laugh. “Thor scored? That was awesome.”
The Avalanche didn’t get their first shot on goal until almost nine minutes into the period. Their second shot resulted in Iginla’s fifth goal of the season at 9:19.
Little’s 2-1 go-ahead goal was reviewed, with a ruling that his shot from a sharp angle was caught in Varlamov’s glove behind the goal-line at 12:29.
Winnipeg outshot the Avs 16-4 in the first and 26-9 after two periods.
Ladd scored his ninth of the season with 45 seconds left, when he tipped in defenceman Ben Chiarot’s shot. It was Chiarot’s first NHL point in his second career game. He was called up from the AHL St. John’s IceCaps earlier in the week.
Little had a chance for a fourth goal into an empty net midway through the period after penalties made the Jets shorthanded, but Avs centre Ryan O’Reilly was back and blocked the shot.
“That was a six on three, so, I mean, we were just running around waving our sticks like idiots for a while,” Little said with a smile. “Honestly, I was exhausted. I didn’t even want to shoot at the net, I just wanted to get off the ice. But if that would have went in, that would have been nice, too. I had nothing left. Couldn’t even shoot the puck hard.”
Iginla scored his sixth of the season on the power play at 10:24 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 at 13:20.
Notes: Injuries to three Winnipeg defencemen, including the top pair of Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian, meant Byfuglien was back playing defence 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 Nashville visits on Tuesday.