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Stafford and Wheeler score 3rd period goals, Jets rally to beat Lightning 2-1

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TAMPA, Florida — The Winnipeg Jets appeared headed for their fourth loss in five games. Then midway through the third period, things suddenly changed.

Drew Stafford and Blake Wheeler scored third-period goals as the Jets rallied to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Saturday night.

Ondrej Pavelec made 15 saves for the Jets, who are in the mix for a Western Conference wild-card spot.

"You want to talk about gutting out a win, character, all those cliches, that fits the bill tonight," Stafford said.

Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lighting, who dropped two points behind Atlantic Division-leading Montreal. Tampa Bay hosts the Canadiens Monday night.

"The result was justified," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "We didn't match their intensity."

Wheeler put the Jets up 2-1 with 7:16 to play after stealing the puck in the Tampa Bay zone, making a nice stick-handling move on Anton Stralman and beating Andrei Vasilevskiy from the right circle.

"You're starting to wonder a little bit if the nightmare was going to continue," Wheeler said.

PHOTO: Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, of Russia, makes a save during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, of Russia, makes a save during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Stafford had tied it at 1 at the 10-minute mark after Kucherov had been given a 5-minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct after sending Toby Enstrom hard into the end boards at 8:01.

Enstrom skated off the ice holding a towel to the side of his face. The defenseman returned later in the period.

Kucherov opened the scoring 4:13 into the third with a shot from the top of right circle.

Vasilevskiy made a nice save early in the first on Andrew Ladd. He finished with 27 saves.

Pavelec stopped Tyler Johnson's left circle shot during a power play in the final minute of the period.

Winnipeg's Jim Slater had his point blank shot turned aside, while Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman was denied on an in-close backhander during the second.

Jets center Mark Scheifele was out briefly in the second after an open ice hit 3 minutes into the period by Stralman, who was given a tripping penalty.

Winnipeg's Michael Frolik had his eight-game point streak (five goals, eight points) end.

NOTES: Tampa Bay D Matt Carle returned after missing 22 games with an abdominal injury and had an assist. ... Winnipeg D Tyler Myers, who left Thursday's game at Florida with an upper body injury, didn't play. ... The Jets were also without C Bryan Little and D Dustin Byfuglien, who both sat out their fourth straight game with upper body injuries. ... Winnipeg RW Matt Halischuk played after being sidelined 18 games with a foot injury, while D Paul Postma was in the lineup for the first time since Jan. 8.

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PHOTO: Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, of Czech Republic, makes a save on a rebound by Tampa Bay Lightning's Alex Killorn during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 14, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
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