With the thermometer topping out at 23.2 degrees Celsius, the ‘Heart of the Continent’ beat out the former record high of 22.8 degrees held for 104 years. Luckily for those in Winnipeg, the balmy weather wasn’t the only ‘win’ around town, as the local hockey team – led by big blueliner Dustin Byfuglien – beat up on the now 4-3-0 visiting Canucks, walking away with a 4-1 victory Thursday evening at home.
The Jets certainly looked like the slower team off the get-go Thursday evening, but rebounded nicely by the midway point of the first period. With Vancouver leading in the shot department, a nifty Nikolaj Ehlers toe drag around goaltender Anders Nilsson nearly got Winnipeg on the board, but even without scoring a goal, Ehlers’ chance sparked the Jets’ offence, leading to a much improved second half of the opening 20 minutes.
Following a successful penalty kill on a Blake Wheeler hooking minor, Winnipeg capitalized on a man advantage of their own. With former Manitoba Moose defenceman Alex Edler in the box for tripping, Patrik Laine picked up his third goal of the season, also his third power play marker.
With the sharp-shooting winger shifting down to the bottom of the left-side faceoff circle, Wheeler found Laine with a brilliant cross-ice pass, and the 20-year-old Finn made no mistake hammering it past Nilsson with just one minute left to play in the period. The goal came on Winnipeg’s 10th shot of the frame, helping boost the Jets to an 11-8 lead through 20 minutes of play.
Wheeler’s assist on the Laine power play goal was the 32-year-old’s 500th point as a member of the Jets’ franchise. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound winger has 223 goals and 610 points in 785 career NHL games played between the Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets.
After being denied an earlier opportunity in the first period, Vancouver’s Bo Horvat knotted the game up at ones for the Canucks with seven minutes left in the second period. Horvat collected a loose puck in the neutral zone and walked past Jacob Trouba on a highlight reel solo effort, before burying his fourth of the season on a chip shot past Connor Hellebuyck blocker side.
Winnipeg’s Matthieu Perreault needed assistance off the ice after he was flattened rather awkwardly with just over two minutes to go in the second frame on an Alex Edler cross check. Defenceman Tyler Myers jumped in and took exception to Edler’s dirty play, eliminating the Jets’ potential upcoming power play opportunity. Myers was later penalized on a rather weak goaltender interference call very late in the second… much to the local fans’ demise.
Winnipeg relinquished its shot lead in the middle stanza by giving up 12 shots to Vancouver, as compared to only putting nine pucks on net in 20 minutes of play in the second period. Through 40 minutes of play, both the score and the shot battle remained deadlocked.
With Edler in the box once again, Winnipeg’s Bryan Little helped the Jets take their second lead of the game in the early stages of the final frame. The lifelong Thrasher/Jet collected the puck on an excellent power play break up ice, finishing off the rush by cutting to the middle of the ice and backhanding a bullet past Nilsson, restoring Winnipeg’s lead at 2-1. Byfuglien picked up his second assist of the night on Little’s second game-winning goal of the season.
Andrew Copp and Dustin Byfuglien added some insurance later in the third, as both players collected their first goals of the campaign on five-on-five play. Copp pounced on a rebound in tight and tucked it past the Canucks’ netminder, before Byfuglien walked in from the point and one-tapped a Bryan Little cross-ice feed into the yawning cage, bringing the Jets’ goal total up to four on the night.
Hellebuyck stood his ground, stopping 26 of 27 pucks directed his way. Following a strong start, Nilsson faltered in the third, only coming up with 28 saves on 32 shots against.
Winnipeg is now 3-0-1 at home, 4-2-1 overall, and 2-0-1 through three games of their six-game mini homestand. The Jets have one day off, before picking things back up on Saturday afternoon with yet another test at home against the visiting Arizona Coyotes. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:00 P.M. central, and the game can be viewed live on TSN3.