Thanks to a hat-trick from Mark Scheifele and another solid goaltending effort from Laurent Brossoit, the Winnipeg Jets opened a four-game road trip with a bang.
Scheifele, who hadn’t scored a goal in 12 games, not only had three tallies, but also added an assist as he led the offence in a 5-1 win against the Senators in Ottawa. Meanwhile, Brossoit not only stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, but also made some big stops when the Jets needed them most.
Scheifele now has 26 goals on the season, but more importantly the big line of Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers is red hot. In the last two games — a 6-3 home win over Los Angeles and a 5-1 road win in Ottawa — Scheifele has three goals and three assists (6), Wheeler has two goals and two assists (4) and Ehlers has two goals and three assists (5). To get 15 points in two games from the big line is a great boost toward winning both of those games.
In fact, the Jets have now won three straight and are 7-3-1 since the All-Star break. They are now 16-11-2 on the road, 32-25-5 overall and have moved into the No. 1 wild card spot in the West. It’s been an incredible season for a team that was not only devastated by player losses in the off-season (Dustin Byfuglien, Brandon Tanev, Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers) but is now playing without three of its top forwards — Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry — who are all out with injuries.
Still, the Jets have been finding ways to win and on Thursday night, they were simply the best team on the ice.
After Nick Paul opened the scoring for Ottawa at the 11:50 mark of the first period, Scheifele answered with two quick power play goals. The first came at 16:35 with Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine garnering the assists and the second was scored at 17:46 from Liane and Neal Pionk.
With that, the Jets were off to the races.
Connor scored his 30th of the season at 4:52 of the third from Pionk and Andrew Copp then Ehlers scored his 22nd from Wheeler and Scheifele at 5:54.
In the third period, after missing two glorious scoring chances, Scheifele finally got the third hat-trick of his career at 18:27, another power play goal, at 18:27 from Logan Shaw and Josh Morrissey.
While all that was going on up front, Brossoit was a cool customer in the Jets net, turning aside everything he saw for the final 48 minutes of the game.
Scheifele now leads all Jets scorers with 26 goals and 65 points. Connor has 30 goals and 63 points, Laine has 25 goals and 58 points, Wheeler has 20 goals and 35 points and Ehlers has 22 goals and 49 points. The Big 5 have carried this team one offence and deserve most of the credit for the fact this devastated hockey club is still in the playoff hunt.
On Thursday, the Jets outshot Ottawa 34-30 and won 52 per cent of the face-offs. Ottawa outhit Winniopeg 27-18 but the Jets blocked 26 shots while the Suns blocked only 10. Scheifele, of course, had the best line for Winnipeg — three goals (all on the power play), one assist, four points, plus-one, five shots on goal and three blocked shots in 20 minutes and 42 seconds of ice time.
“It’s always nice to score,” said Scheifele. “When you’re getting the chances, it’s good to pop one in, but this was a team win. It was a good start to the road trip.”
Thursday night’s win was the debut of new Jets defensemen Dylan DeMelo, the former Ottawa Senator who was acquired by Winnipeg on Wednesday. He was honoured briefly by the Senators in the second period.
“It was a little wierd to start, being own that side of the bench looking down at the red,” said DeMelo, who did a great job killing penalties. “I was impressed with our team. We have a good group of guys in this room. I’m happy with the first one. Happy to get it done with.”
The Jets will now head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers at Noon CST on Saturday. They’ll play in Buffalo Sunday at 2 p.m. CST. Then they’ll wrap up the road trip against powerful Washington next Tuesday night at 6 p.m. CST.