Having clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs and snapped a seven-game losing streak with the same victory, the Winnipeg Jets head into Saturday night's home game against the Ottawa Senators with a simple goal: ready themselves for the second season.
The Jets (28-21-3, 59 points), who are third in the North Division, received a much-needed boost in Wednesday's 4-0 victory over the Calgary Flames.
"All you're looking for when you start the season is an opportunity," said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who scored twice in the win and has a five-game points streak. "Anything can happen now. It was nice for everyone to get a result. Our game has been way better the last few games. It was really important for our team to get rewarded."
After facing the Senators, the Jets will finish the regular season with a pair of home games against the Vancouver Canucks and then a home date with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Jets likely will face the Edmonton Oilers in the opening round of the playoffs.
The victory in Calgary certainly changes their outlook going forward.
"During the slide there, there were some moments where you kind of thought, 'Is this thing ever going to end?' " forward Adam Lowry said. "We're glad that's behind us now. We're just looking forward to continuing to get better and peaking for the playoffs."
Jets coach Paul Maurice sees a positive from the slump.
"You're in the room as a coach and you try to get around and gauge temperature all the time, but you don't really know the dynamic in the room until you see it under duress," Maurice said. "They're all hanging together, practicing together. You can tell by the way they talk to each other. You'll walk into a meeting before it starts, you listen on the way in, and they're excited."
The Senators (21-27-5, 47 points) are sixth in the North Division and long have been eliminated from playoff contention but are playing their best hockey of the season. They're on a 7-1-1 roll, capped by a 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
Making Ottawa's success even more impressive is the infusion of young players.
For example, rookie Shane Pinto - the 2019 second-round draft choice who joined Ottawa after finishing his sophomore season at the University of North Dakota -- scored his first NHL goal (in his ninth game) against Montreal.
"It was good to get the first one out of the way," Pinto said. "I'm just happy we won. I thought we played pretty well, and to contribute to that, it's obviously really cool.
"A big reason why I left North Dakota was to get these games in and see what I'm up against and see what I need to work on this summer," he added. "It's going to be good for me, definitely have a big summer, and come in confident and hopefully we have a good year."
The latest Ottawa newcomer is defenseman Olle Alsing, a free-agent signee from Sweden who played in Austria before coming to North America and who made his NHL debut Wednesday.
"When you're getting in there for your first game, or first couple of games, you're dealing with guys that have played all year," Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. "It's a learning experience for everyone. It's so much easier when you get in and get to play with an older player, but when you're that young back there, everyone's got to play and it's trial by fire. They'll get better as we go."
--Field Level Media