On an otherwise routine Tuesday night, as the Winnipeg Jets’ honoured the 2019 Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the hockey team’s offence decided to show up at Bell MTS Place.
And it was anything but routine.
Kyle Connor had a goal and two assists while Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine each had a goal and an assist as the Jets big line had a terrific night. Meanwhile, Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and an assist as Winnipeg blasted the visiting Dallas Stars 5-1.
Considering the Jets failed to score on two clear-cut breakaways, had the first goal of the game called back by review and through it all, the Scheifele-Connor-Laine line missed at least a dozen decent prime scoring chances, it’s surprising the home side didn’t reach double figures.
With the win, the Jets improved to 17-10-1 and moved back into second place in the Central Division. Despite all of the adversity this season, the Jets are one of only six NHL teams to have recorded 17 wins so far this season. The Jets are now 6-5-1 at Bell MTS Place this season and have gained nine of a possible 12 points in their last six home games.
Regardless of the numbers, and they are all important, the fact is this was an impressive win for a team that has been better defensively than it has been offensively this season.
“I don’t think they’ve ever been looking to sacrifice their defence to score goals,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said of his team. “We’re a better defensive team right now than we are an offensive team. The numbers say that for us this year. We were good tonight because we’ve had a run of playing the same lineup and the forward lines have been fairly consistent. But it’s their compete defensively that has been outstanding. It’s not always easy but they’re going after it pretty good.”
After Laine’s opening goal – at the 13 second mark of the opening period – was called back on review because two linesmen missed an offside, the Jets did not fold their tent.
At 7:45, Nikolaj Ehlers beat Dallas netminder Anton Khudobin for his team-leading 13thof the season as Neal Pionk and Luca Sbisa drew the assists. It was the goal that officially started one of the most impressive performances of the season.
Leading 1-0 after 20 minutes, the Jets blew it open in the second. Connor made it 2-0 at the 7:56 mark with his 11the of the year as he tipped in a Josh Morrissey shot. Tucker Poolman also drew an assist.
Interestingly, on a big night for the team’s offence, four defensemen drew every one of the assists on the Jets’ first two goals. Of course, that trend would soon change when defenseman Josh Morrissey scored his third of the year from Ehlers and Blake Wheeler at 11:12 of the second to give the Jets a 3-0 lead.
Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen scored a power play goal at 17:59 to make it 3-1, but Laine answered with his eighth of the campaign at 19:29 as Scheifele and Connor drew the assists. The Jets led 4-1 after 40 minutes and with three goals in the second frame tied their season-high for goals in a period.
In the third period, as Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck kept the Stars at bay, Scheifele scored his 10thof the year on the wraparound as Laine and Connor drew the helpers. The goal came at 13:59 and that was plenty. What might have been a 10-1 or 12-1 win turned out to be a very impressive 5-1 victory.
“I think the first 20 was real good,” said Laine, who called his big goal in the second period, “something I had to do after a dumb penalty on the power play.” “Tonight we wanted to play a solid first 20 and build off that.”
The Jets outshot Dallas 30-28 and won 66 per cent of the faceoffs. They were outhit 26-20 by Dallas but did win the only fight when Adam Lowry pummeled Dallas’ Corey Perry midway through the third period.
Connor (3), Ehlers (2) and Scheifele (1) were the game’s three stars. Scheifele, Connor and Laine were all plus-three for the night. Ehlers was plus-one.
All three members of the Jets’ big line had terrific stats lines: Scheifele had a goal and an assist, was plus-three with four shots, a hit, a blocked shot and a takeway; Laine had a goal and an assist, was plus-three with three shots, three hits, a blocked shot and a takeaway; and Connor had a goal and two assists, was a plus-three with four shots.
Goalie Connor Hellebuyck was solid again, allowing only one goal on 28 shots. On the down side, defenseman Luca Sbisa left the game in the third period and didn’t return after taking a skate near his groin.
The Jets and Stars get at it again on Thursday night in Dallas in the second game of this home-and-home series. Game time on TSN3 is 7:30 p.m. The Jets return home on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. to face the Anaheim Ducks.