WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets squandered three one-goal leads before Blake Wheeler scored 1:42 into overtime to give them a 5-4 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night at MTS Centre.
Wheeler broke into the Colorado zone, moved around three defenders and seemingly waited too long before firing a wide-angled shot from the right circle that beat goaltender Reto Berra. Wheeler, who had two assists earlier in the game, broke a nine-game goal-scoring drought.
The loss wrapped up a three-game Canadian road trip for the Avalanche (44-20-6), who dropped behind the Chicago Blackhawks into third place in the Central Division. The Avalanche and the Blackhawks, which beat the St. Louis Blues 4-0, are headed toward a likely first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Jets (32-30-9) moved within four points of the Phoenix Coyotes for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference; however, Phoenix has two games in hand.
Each team began the game battling injury problems. The Avalanche was without centers Paul Stastny and John Mitchell while the injury-plagued Jets took two more hits to their roster, with defensemen Dustin Byfuglien (lower body) and Zach Bogosian (upper body) not dressing for the game. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (lower body) also missed his third consecutive game.
Berra, whom the Avalanche acquired from the Calgary Flames on March 5 and subsequently signed to a three-year contract extension, made his Colorado debut and stopped 22 shots. Al Montoya made his third straight start in place of Pavelec and made 23 saves.
Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Nick Holden and Cody McLeod scored for the Avalanche. Jets captain Andrew Ladd scored twice and hit the 20-goal mark for the third time in the past four seasons. Eric Tangradi, who moved to a line with Olli Jokinen and Wheeler, scored his first goal in 29 games. Evander Kane added a second-period goal.
O'Reilly banked a shot off Winnipeg center Bryan Little and past Montoya 20 seconds into the game for his team-leading 26th goal. Ladd answered for the Jets at 3:15, snapping a rising shot off the left wing that climbed over Berra's glove hand and caught the top corner.
Tangradi scored his second goal of the season and gave Winnipeg a 2-1 lead at 13:49 when he stuffed Wheeler's cross-crease pass behind Berra and inside the right post. However, Landeskog tied the game at 2-2 with his 21st goal during a delayed penalty against Winnipeg, punching the rebound of Andre Benoit's point shot past Montoya at 17:43.
Kane gave the Jets a 3-2 lead at 12:02 of the second period, finishing off a touch pass from Devin Setoguchi for his 17th goal. But Holden's eighth of the season with 30.5 seconds left in the period left the teams even at 3-3 after two periods.
Ladd provided the Jets with their third lead of the game when he snapped a high shot from in close over Berra's right shoulder at 4:58 of the third period. McLeod's third of the season tied the game again with 9:37 left in regulation and broke his 48-game goalless streak.