Recently the JetsNation team put together a list of the most memorable moments of the last ten years of Winnipeg Jets / Atlanta Thrashers hockey. We came up with about 15 in total ranging from no-brainers like the day Mark Chipman announced the return of the NHL to the city of Winnipeg, to understated moments such as the fight filled affair in Nashville where an angry and frustrated Jets squad filled up the penalty box against a Predators club that was just starting to become a major team rival.
With our list in hand, we turned to all of you to help us narrow the list to ten iconic moments and memories that will last with us well beyond December 31, 2019. This is the first part of our five part series where we go over the top ten (in no particular order) and highlight what made each moment stand out and our memories of them.
“The Flying W”
March 1, 2012: Rare “five on one” breakout goal highlights a Winnipeg Jets 7-0 rout of Florida
Going into the first season of “Jets 2.0” there was plenty of excitement, but also lots of talk of needing to temper expectations of just how good this club could be. This was the former Atlanta Thrashers after all, a team that had missed the playoffs in each of the last four seasons they played and spend last season playing sub .500 hockey and finishing fourth in the five team Southeast Division.
As the season went on it seemed like the fortunes of the team changed with each month. October saw a rocky start to the season, November was slightly better but not by much. Then the Jets had a surprisingly good December and suddenly talk started shifting towards a possible playoff run. January saw the team cool off a bit, but they rebounded in February and by the time the calendar flipped to March, the Jets were a respectable 31-27-8, just one point behind the Washington Capitals and four behind the first place Florida Panthers.
The Jets in their first season in Winnipeg had a chance to do something that only happened once in the previous 11 years in Atlanta… Make the NHL playoffs. Any previous talk of tempering expectations was being thrown out the window with the Jets going into a huge divisional matchup against the Panthers.
The Jets started well enough as Evander Kane and Jim Slater scored two minutes apart early in the first period to give the home side a 2-0 lead, but a strong second period by the Panthers where they out-shot the 17-8 not only put Ondrej Pavelec to the test, but also tested the faith of a fanbase that had seen their team give up multiple goal leads in the back half of games far too often in the season.
Then the third period happened.
A five goal explosion by the Jets punctuated early with a goal that was more memorable from the first season than Nik Antropov’s first Jets goal back in October.
Think of all the odd-man rushes you see in hockey. Two on ones are fairly common and once in a while you’ll get a three on one rush or even four on two. A five on one jailbreak was an incredible sight to see as it happened live and a true “once in a decade” type play. The rare breakout play was almost instantly termed “The Flying W” a nod to the movie “The Mighty Ducks” where the protagonist hockey club of the same name adopted a “Flying V” breakout that while entertaining in a Hollywood way, didn’t seem plausible in real life.
Any doubts to how iconic the “Flying W” goal is were erased when the team itself referenced it five years later while talking about the movie.
The official scoring on the play was Bryan Little’s 19th goal of the season from Blake Wheeler and defenseman Randy Jones who played all of 39 games with the Jets in what would be his final NHL season. The Jets ended up winning the game 7-0, pulling into second place in the Southeast and two points behind the Panthers. Sadly that’s where the good memory ends for the 2011-12 Jets. They only managed to win six of their last 16 games of the season and dropped out of playoff race.
November 24, 2018: Patrik Laine lights the lamp five times as Jets light up Blues 8-4
Going into his third year as an NHL pro, everyone was already well aware that Patrik Laine was an elite goal scorer. 80 goals in his first two seasons with the Jets and going into the November 24th contest against the St Louis Blues, the talk around Laine was that maybe a 50 goal season was coming up. After scoring just three times in 12 games during the month of October, Laine and the Jets headed to Finland where he apparently found his goal scoring touch picking up four goals in two games against the Panthers. Laine followed that up with seven more goals in the next seven games including a hat trick in Vancouver and a two goal night in Calgary.
There was no doubt the kid was on a roll, but what he did against St. Louis was next level.
How rare are five goal games? It was the first five-goal game in the NHL since Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings pulled off the accomplishment in February 2011. It was just the third time it happened in the last 18 years and it of course hasn’t been done since. It’s rare enough that grocery chain Safeway/Sobey’s made it the feat that would win one lucky contestant the ultimate prize: one million dollars. Laine’s on-ice heroics helped Christopher Haley pocket a bunch of cash. A couple of seasons earlier, Mathieu Perreault almost turned the five goal trick himself against the Florida Panthers, but missed magical number five by inches.
But on this night against the Blues, almost every single one of those five goals were needed. The Jets struggled a bit defensively themselves and the Blues had kept themselves within striking distance for the first period and Laine’s four goals in the second period put the game well out of reach. St Louis did score a couple of more goals in the third period just to make things interesting, but by then the damage by Laine had been done.
Unfortunately Laine’s memorable November didn’t carry over to the rest of the season. He only scored 11 times in the 60 games played after his five goal night and only had a pair two goal nights after managing three hat tricks in one month, which has put a bit of a damper on what was a historic night in St. Louis. The Blues for their part of the story turned out ok as well, going on a magical run that had them at the bottom of the NHL standings in December to Stanley Cup Champions in June.
But even with all the good memories from that seasons, Laine’s five goal night remains a bit of a scar that serves as a reminder to Blues fans of Patrik Laine and just how dangerous he can be on any given night.