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WINNIPEG -- The Jets fans came, they cheered and they screamed "Go Jets go" as a 15-year separation between Winnipeg and NHL hockey ended last night when the Jets made their return.
It was just an 3-1 exhibition split-squad win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the smallest arena in the league was packed with just over 15,000 jersey-wearing, ecstatic fans who screamed their lungs out at the MTS Centre.
They had lots to cheer. The first fight erupted less than a minute in and Winnipeg's first goal was scored by Paul Postma within the first eight minutes.
"It was heartbreaking to lose them and to get them back like this is extremely exciting," said Kevin Francis, who attended the game with his son John.
"I couldn't be happier," said Francis, one of many who lined up and arrived more than an hour early.
In 1996 the previous incarnation of the Jets left Winnipeg for Phoenix, where they were renamed the Coyotes. The Jets played in Atlanta last season as the Thrashers.
"The city's gone crazy for them," said Francis, who couldn't get season tickets but was happy to get a couple to the emotional return.
Blue Jackets 5, Jets 1
Columbus -- Maksim Mayorov had a goal and assist for Columbus, while Evander Kane scored Winnipeg's goal. Kane flicked home a backhand at 6:21 of the second period in the split-squad game.
Columbus' Nick Holden started the scoring in the first period while Boone Jenner, Mayorov, Antoine Vermette, and Samuel Pahlsson added second-period goals for the Blue Jackets.
Kane made it 3-1 off the rush on a feed from Blake Wheeler.
The Jets' John Albert nearly had the game's first goal, but it was waived off due to a goalie interference call on Carl Klingberg. Goalie Mark Dekanich did not return after the opening period due to a lower-body injury.