Tuesday marked the back half of a two-game set for the Winnipeg Jets with the Vancouver Canucks from Bell MTS Place. Following a difficult shutout loss on Monday, the home team rebounded with a strong 5-2 victory over its fellow North Division rival.
The Jets started the game with the opening goal, this time off the stick of Mason Appleton. Following a strong net drive, Appleton found Kyle Connor who put the puck towards Adam Lowry. It was deflected on net and the rebound came right back to Appleton, who banked in his sixth goal of the season, setting a new career high.
“Fast starts are huge, especially in the National Hockey League,” Appleton said post-game. “You don’t want to be chasing games. So to score early and kind of build on that lets you establish your identity and your style of play. I think we were really confident all night even though we were coming off a 4-0 loss. We’re a really good hockey team and we showed that tonight and we battled through all three periods and got the win.”
But just three minutes later, Elias Pettersson responded for the Canucks. He rang a shot off the post, crossbar and Laurent Brossoit before having it dribble past the goal line, despite the Jets’ netminder’s best attempts at turning it aside.
Winnipeg then added another goal just about as late as one could score in a 20-minute period to take the lead after the opening frame. A slow developing flip pass up-ice eluded two Canucks players, to which veteran forward Mathieu Perreault corralled the bouncing puck and walked in alone on Braden Holtby. He put it past the Canucks’ goalie low blocker side with just 2.6 seconds left in the period. Despite holding onto a 2-1 lead, Winnipeg did trail Vancouver 14-12 in the shots department.
“Scoring goals is always fun for me,” Perreault said. “So every time I get a chance to help the team get a goal and win a game I always get really excited about it. It’s what I do for a living. I’ve been playing this game since I was born, really. Scoring goals is part of it so every time I score a goal I always get excited. It always gives my team a chance to win the game, so that’s gonna make you feel happy about yourself.”
The middle stanza saw the two teams exchange goals, with the Jets capitalizing on an early-period power play and the Canucks responding on a late-period man advantage of their own.
Connor finished off a slick passing play between Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, putting a wrist shot through Holtby five-hole with just 5:04 gone in the second. But then with just seconds left on the clock, J.T. Miller hammered a one-timer past Brossoit high blocker side with just 4.7 seconds left, bringing the visitors back to just one goal.
Leading 3-2 after 40 minutes, all Winnipeg needed was some insurance in the third period. Luckily for head coach Paul Maurice and Co. that insurance came in the form of a late-period goalmouth scramble to which Paul Stastny served as the beneficiary of a second point blank shot from the top of the crease. After reloading on a miscue moments prior, the newly arranged Stastny-Scheifele-Wheeler line put the nail in the Canucks’ coffin with Stastny goal followed by a Wheeler empty net tally, sealing the deal on the 5-2 victory.
“After they scored one to cut the lead to one, for us to play the way we did, I think that’s the sign of a really good, elite team,” Brossoit said. “Getting a lot of time in the offensive zone, not sitting back – those are all those little things that take a lot of veteran leadership. We did a really good job of that tonight.”
In picking up his fourth win of the season, Brossoit helped Winnipeg improve its regular season record to 14-7-1 on the year. He turned aside 31 of Vancouver’s 33 shots in the victory. Winnipeg welcomed Tucker Poolman back to the lineup following a short injury absence. Fellow defender Sami Niku drew out of the lineup to make room for the 27-year-old. He played well on the back-end alongside Josh Morrissey.
“That was really, really good tonight,” coach Maurice said. “Driving pucks to the net, thinking shot first and there was a lot more chaos around their net that we haven’t seen from our team. It’s been fairly kind of clean in and out where we either beat the goalie or didn’t get much action in the second and the third, especially. It was really, really good. Mason Appleton driving the net that draws the penalty that leads to the goal. There was lots of direct play with the mindset of pucks to the net.”
Next up for Winnipeg is a five-game road trip out east, where the Jets will play two games in Montreal before heading to Toronto for three-straight matchups. All five games will feature 6:00 PM central puck drops. Winnipeg will play Montreal from the Bell Centre on Thursday and Saturday, before having two days off and then get back at it in Ontario.