Just last week Dale Hawerchuck, the struggling once and maybe future star of the Winnipeg Jets, was saying how disappointing it was to hear the Jets being booed by their own fans. He was noting the dwindling crowds, and he said he thought the fans weren’t happy with the team’s talent.
Well, the Jets sought to solve all those problems at once Sunday night.
The fans filled Winnipeg Arena to its capacity of 15,535 for the first time this season. And they cheered, especially when the Jets strung together 6 goals in the third period of an 8-4 win over the Kings.
That set a Winnipeg record for goals in a period. With Brent Ashton’s goal at the end of the 2nd period, the Jets actually had 7 straight.
The Kings, who would have taken over the lead in the Smythe Division with the victory, were leading, 4-1, before the barrage began.
The discontent over the talent on the Jets’ roster? Club president Barry Shenkarow dealt with that by announcing that John Ferguson, vice president and general manager of the team for the last 10 years, had been fired a couple of hours before the game.
The celebrating Jets were instantly subdued when they were told of the news after the game.
The Kings were subdued, too, after being outshot, 21-10, in the 3rd period.
King Coach Robbie Ftorek, whose team had defeated the Jets, 7-4, Friday, said of Sunday’s game: “Frustrating is a good word for it. . . . Winnipeg’s power-play goal in the 3rd period started the snowballing.
“In the last game, the 3rd period was one of our best periods. In this game, we were getting caught backing into the goal in the 3rd period. We were outworked and outhustled.”
Hawerchuk called the game the Jets’ “best of the year.”
Jet Coach Dan Maloney said that once the game opened up, his team picked up confidence. He added: “Once Wayne Gretzky settles in with the L.A. team and gets to know the players better, he’ll be a great offensive force once again. L.A. has always had a good offensive team.”
Gretzky scored an unassisted goal to give the Kings a 2-1 lead after his team had given up the obligatory first goal of the game to Jet defenseman Dave Ellett, the 10th time in the 11 games that L.A. had given up the first goal. Mike Krushelnyski then tied it for the Kings.
In the second period, Bernie Nicholls made it 3-1, teaming with Luc Robitaille on a 2-on-1 break. Dave Taylor took a pass from Nicholls to up the score to 4-1 on a power play before the Jets took over.
Ellett scored his 2nd goal to open the final period. At 12:37 of the 3rd period, Pat Elynuik tied the game on a power-play goal and 1:02 later, Randy Gihlen gave the Jets the lead. The next 3 goals were back-to-back, too, with Hawerchuck redirecting a shot by Andrew McGain at 16:14, Doug Smail scoring 46 seconds later and Ray Neufeld scoring 39 seconds after that.
The Jets’ scouting report on Glen Healy reportedly advised coming back quickly after a goal because it takes the King goaltender too long to regroup.
King defenseman Doug Crossman could find only one good thing to say about the way the Kings let this one get away: “This is a young team. If this kind of thing is going to happen, it’s better to have it happen early while we have time to overcome it.”
The Kings’ remaining games on this trip are at Quebec, at Montreal, at Toronto and at Chicago. Goalie Rollie Melanson, who was reportedly having trouble with a nagging injury to his knee, did not make the trip. Goalie Bob Janecyk, who was called up from New Haven, is with the team. . . . John Ferguson, who has been with the Jets since Winnipeg joined the NHL, was told that he had been “relieved of his duties” when he walked into his office at 6 p.m. The firing raises the question whether Coach Dan Maloney’s job is safe and whether Dale Hawerchuk might end up on the trading block. Hawerchuk was assured last week by Ferguson that there would be no trade. . . . With his 4th goal of the weekend, Bernie Nicholls has a total of 11 to lead the team in goals.