GAME ON Magazine Exclusive
The Winnipeg Jets clearly enjoy playing the Vancouver Canucks on the road. On Wednesday evening, the Jets earned their 20th win of the shortened 2020-21 season placing the team into a three-way tie for first place in the North Division, and eighth-straight victory in British Columbia. Wednesday’s 5-1 win was highlighted by a four-goal outing from forward Andrew Copp while also serving as goaltender Connor Hellebuyck’s 15th of the season.
“I’m going to have a hard time remembering my last four-goal game,” Copp laughed post-game. “I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s ever happened before. So it’s a pretty cool experience. Yeah, I think I definitely owe Appie a nice dinner, a bottle of wine or something for not passing to him on the empty net. But yeah, a pretty cool feeling.”
Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice once again opted to go with the same lineup as he dressed in the club’s 4-0 shutout victory over the very same Canucks back on Monday evening. With Hellebuyck coming off his first shutout of the season (21st career), the reigning Vezina Trophy winner was looking to post a similar stat-line following what he called a “perfect team game”.
The first period saw the Jets take a minimal 12-11 shot lead into the break, with neither team able to find a goal in the game’s opening period. The first period did see a fight between Logan Stanley and Zack MacEwan late in the frame, which was the first official NHL tussle of Stanley’s career.
“Well, I don’t think it’s going to be every game but if something happens in the game and I need to step up, that’s part of my role and something I’m willing to do,” Stanley reflected on his willingness to drop the mitts. “Tonight seemed like a good opportunity for me to get my first fight and it was a little bit overdue but it was good.”
Winnipeg exploded for three goals in the middle stanza, two of which came off the stick of Andrew Copp on back-to-back Jets power plays. Mark Scheifele then added a third goal of the period with just 1:47 left to play.
Following a Canucks bench minor for too many men on the ice, Pierre-Luc Dubois found Neal Pionk at the point, whose long-range wrister was redirected perfectly by Copp, bouncing over the pad of Thatcher Demko and into the Vancouver net for a 1-0 Winnipeg lead. Then just six minutes later, with the Canucks once again attempting to kill a too-many-men penalty, Copp found his second goal of the game and eighth of the season on a rebound following a Nikolaj Ehlers wrist shot. Dubois collected his second secondary assist of the period.
Then with time ticking down on the middle frame, Paul Stastny brought the puck out from behind the Canucks’ net and made a play to Blake Wheeler, who drove the net, leading to Scheifele’s 13th of the season. Picking up the garbage, the Jets’ first line centreman extended Winnipeg’s lead to three goals through 40 minutes of play. Despite this, Vancouver maintained a slight 29-28 shot lead through two periods of work.
The Canucks put up a valiant effort in the third period, coming close on multiple occasions. After Jake Virtanen rang a wrist shot square off the post on a partial break, JT Miller found the crossbar in a goalmouth scramble. Vancouver opted to pull with 5:40 to play in the third period, and unfortunately for the Canucks, it backfired.
It took just 1:30 of the six-on-five for Winnipeg to find the empty net. And like it was meant to be, Copp fired his third of the game into the yawning cage from his own defensive zone, collecting his first career hat trick in the process.
“Yeah, I mean everyone is on the bench telling me you know, you gotta shoot, you gotta shoot whenever you get the puck,” the game’s first star chuckled. “I thought that it was just a static in-zone that I didn’t really think that anybody was going to have any speed really, anyone was going to be at the red line, but I guess Apple may have been cheating it a little bit. But I just kind of knocked it down and I had a lot of time and I was able to get a clean shot at it, so it felt kind of like, why not?”
Unbelievably, Copp wasn’t done there. With just 2:26 remaining, Adam Lowry got the puck to Mason Appleton, whose shot rebounded back to Copp, who put the cherry on top of a four-goal night on a simple backhander that found its way through Demko.
“He’s really worked at it, would be the simple answer,” coach Maurice said of Copp’s offensive game. “He spends an awful lot of his time trying to develop that part of his game. I think his talent and his gift is the defensive part of the game, and that comes naturally to him. He’s spent an awful lot of time developing his hands, picking pucks along the boards. Just worked at it and worked at it.”
Nils Hoglander put the Canucks on the board with his seventh of the season with just 1:25 remaining on a clock, helping Vancouver avoid a second-straight shutout.
“Yeah, it stings a little bit,” Hellebuyck said when asked about losing the shutout late in the game. “I love shoutouts but at the end of the day we win and that’s all I really care about, continuing to climb the standings and we got to look forward. It’s not going to be an easy division and we need all the wins we can get.”
Hellebuyck stopped 38 of Vancouver’s 39 shots on the night, while seeing his record improve to 15-9-2 with the win on Wednesday. His counterpart Thatcher Demko turned aside 31 of Winnipeg’s 36 shots, who saw his record fall to 12-12-1 on the season.
The Jets now travel back to Alberta for a set of three games in four days against Calgary to conclude the season-long seven-game road trip. Facing off against the Flames on Friday, Saturday and Monday in late-night, 9:00 PM central start times, Winnipeg finally returns home on Wednesday, for the first of two-straight against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. TSN will be home to the games on Friday and Monday, while Saturday’s game can be viewed live on CBC or Sportsnet.