After being held off the scoresheet in a goal-scoring drought that spanned 15 games, Winnipeg Jets’ forward Patrik Laine rediscovered his scoring ways Friday night in Vegas. Although Laine’s offensive explosion was certainly one of the big storylines from the Jets’ first visit back to T-Mobile Arena since the 2018 Western Conference Finals, there was plenty to talk about in Winnipeg’s 6-3 victory Friday night.
The news of the day came following morning skate, as speedy winger Nikolaj Ehlers announced prematurely that he would be returning to the Jets’ lineup, unbeknownst to Head Coach Paul Maurice. Coach Mo later confirmed Ehlers’ statement, placing the winger on a line with Bryan Little and Kyle Connor.
It took Ehlers just 56 seconds to make an impact. Following a strong setup play by Connor and Little in the offensive zone, Ehlers jumped on a loose puck in the Vegas crease, and pounded it past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, picking up his first goal less than a minute into his first game back following a 20-game absence.
That same line stuck just 32 seconds later as Connor collected his 24th goal of the season on a setup play from Little and Sami Niku. But with just over four minutes remaining in the first period, Pierre-Edouard Bellmare brought Vegas back to life on a goal assisted by Winnipegger Ryan Reaves.
Eight minutes into the second period, a Shea Theodore point shot found its way through traffic and past Connor Hellebuyck, knotting the game up at twos. But with Reilly Smith in the box for hooking in the final minute of the second frame, Patrik Laine blasted a one-timer past Fleury for his first goal in 15 games. The sniper’s strike was met with much jubilation, from teammates, fans and coaches alike. Just 27 seconds later Adam Lowry banked in a rebound, snapping his own personal 19-game scoring drought, putting the Jets up 4-2 through 40 minutes.
Friday’s game continued its see-saw structure in the third period, as Jonathan Marchessault collected his 20th marker of the season just eight seconds into the frame. But six minutes later, Jacob Trouba and Blake Wheeler teamed up to find a wide open Laine on a five-on-three power play for the Finn’s second goal of the game. Andrew Copp put the icing on the cake with his seventh goal of the season into a Vegas empty net.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 29 shots, as the Jets doubled up the Golden Knights 6-3, improving Winnipeg’s record to 37-20-4. Jacob Trouba’s three-assist night helped him set career highs in both assists (30) and points (34). Laine’s two goals while playing in a game with Ehlers was more than he scored in Ehlers’ entire seven-week absence.
The Jets now fly over to Phoenix, as Winnipeg will have a date with the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday evening. Following a Shane Doan jersey retirement ceremony, puck drop will occur at 8:00 PM central time. The game is available to be viewed on Sportsnet.