Saturday evening marked the first of nine battles between the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks. Travelling to Bell MTS place for the first time since January 14, 2020, the Canucks did not need to adjust much in terms of pre-game preparations and meal times, as the game’s 9:15 PM local start time served as what would be a typical home starting time in Vancouver.
Although members of the Jets would never admit it, the later start most definitely played into their difficult showing on Saturday. Falling behind very early, Winnipeg played catch-up for the remainder of the game, ultimately losing 4-1 and being heavily outshot 39-24 in the process.
Brock Boeser opened the scoring very early for the visitors. A great feed from former Manitoba Moose defenceman Alex Edler saw Boeser all alone in front of Connor Hellebuyck with just 29 seconds having ticked off the clock. The young goal scorer did what he does best and outwaited the Jets’ netminder before tucking the puck into the open net stick side.
But just 1:34 later, Mason Appleton knotted the game back up with his first goal of the season off an Adam Lowry offensive zone faceoff win. The game remained tied for another six minutes, until Canucks’ rookie forward Nils Hoglander decided to show off his hand-eye control. With an errant Bo Horvat pass deflecting off Mark Scheifele’s skate and landing on top of the Jets’ net, the puck rolled of the front of the crossbar, where Hoglander tracked it mid-air and batted it past Hellebuyck at the 8:17 mark, providing the final goal of the opening period.
“I saw a guy go behind the net and made the pass back to the same side that he came from, so I stopped and went post-to-post and the puck disappeared,” Hellebuyck laughed post-game. “The next thing I knew it’s in the back of my net. I couldn’t figure out the path of the puck until I saw the replay. Pretty strange events, but you can’t change that.”
Despite a rather sloppy start in the their defensive zone, the Jets did seem to sort out some issues as the period wore on. Lengthy stretches of offensive zone puck control near the end of the frame gave the home team a healthy 13-8 shot lead through 20 minutes of play.
Following typical Jets tradition from 2020-21 thus far, the team found itself trailing by two goals yet again midway through the second period. At 6:58 of the middle stanza, Zack McEwan redirected a Jordie Benn point shot past Hellebuyck, putting Vancouver up 3-1. Having been trapped on the ice for all three Canucks goals, Josh Morrissey and Dylan DeMelo saw their respective plus/minus totals drop to -3 on the night
Winnipeg had one power play early in the second period, which saw the red-hot Andrew Copp redirect a point shot off the post. The Jets’ other high-danger scoring chance came off the stick of Adam Lowry, who found himself on a shorthanded breakaway midway through the frame, but ended up losing control of the puck as he tried to outwait Thatcher Demko in the Canucks’ goal.
After entering the second period up 13-8 in the shot department, Winnipeg saw the visitors pump 15 pucks on net, taking over the shot lead 23-17 on a very poor performance offence-wise from the Jets.
The third period saw Vancouver add just an empty-net tally off the stick of Brock Boeser, sealing the deal 4-1 for the boys from B.C.
“We kind of got away from some of the things that give us success,” Wheeler said of the Jets’ showing Saturday. “The second period wasn’t all that great. The first period was actually better than the score looked. A couple bad bounces that ended up in our net. But we’ve got some more of these long breaks this year, but we’ve got to learn to love them.”
Connor Hellebuyck saw his record drop to 4-2-0 on the season as he stopped just 35 of 38 Canucks shots fired his way. On the other end of the ice, Thatcher Demko turned aside 23 of 24 Winnipeg shots while picking up the victory and improving the Canucks’ record to 6-5-0.
“I think we’re going to have to shake this one off,” Hellebuyck said. “We have been playing some really good hockey. The guys have been scoring and they need to keep that confidence. That’s the NHL for you; any team can win on any night. Vancouver earned this one. We’ve got to move on and we’ve got to keep racking up as many wins as possible, because this division is going to be tight.”
Next up for the 5-3-0 Jets is a season-long, four-game set with Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames, beginning on Monday. Winnipeg will play host to the Flames on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from Bell MTS Place, before travelling to Calgary for one game on the following Tuesday. All three games from Manitoba next week will be played at 7:00 PM central, and can be viewed live on TSN.