Coming off a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday, the Winnipeg Jets were back in the nation’s capital for a rematch on Wednesday evening. Jets head coach Paul Maurice opted to stick with the same lineup – save for his goaltender – in hopes of gaining revenge in a battle with the North Division’s cellar dweller.
With Laurent Brossoit starting his first game since March 27 and Ottawa’s Matt Murray suiting up for the first time since March 10, the thought of a high-scoring game certainly entered the minds of both teams heading into the matchup. Following a quick start that saw two goals before the game was five minutes old, the two teams failed to find another tally until the final period of play. Although not a blowout by any reach, Winnipeg did manage to fend off the Sens in a 3-2 victory.
Just two nights after doubling up the Jets, the Senators wasted little time getting back on the board. Giving up four breakaway on Monday, Ottawa opened the scoring on Wednesday on a two-on-none just 1:19 into the game. With goaltender Laurent Brossoit at his mercy, Nick Paul roofed a wrist shot high, blocker side following a mixup at the blueline between defencemen Derek Forbort and Neal Pionk.
But the Jets responded just 2:05 later, on a goal off the stick of Mark Scheifele. The play however was all Nikolaj Ehlers. Collecting a breakout pass from Pionk, Ehlers carried the puck into the Senators’ zone, did a hard curl-back and feed a perfect pass cross-ice off his backhand to Scheifele. Winnipeg’s top centreman calmly steered the puck into the net and past Matt Murray for his 16th of the season. The goal extended both Ehlers’ and Scheifele’s point streaks to five games apiece.
“He creates so much open ice, makes a lot of smart plays,” coach Maurice said of Ehlers post-game. “He’s such a positive personality. He’s a big part of that power play unit going. Just really excited when they go out. They’ve got a great chemistry going. I’m really happy for him, but he should be acknowledged for the improvement in his game. He’s really come a long way.”
The two early-period goals were the only markers of the frame, with the Jets outshooting the home team 11-9 through 20 minutes of play. A late Winnipeg man advantage actually once again gave Ottawa more scoring opportunities than it did the Jets – much like the script of Monday’s game.
The most excitement of the middle stanza was a deflected Adam Lowry dump-in that nearly hit the all-new 2021 Ford Bronco positioned just outside the glass in southwestern corner of the Canadian Tire Centre. Neither team scored in the frame, with the Jets maintaining a slight 20-19 shot lead through 40 minutes of play.
Maurice opted to change the look of his forward lines to begin the third period, with Paul Stastny shifting back to centre ice between Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers, while Pierre-Luc Dubois skated with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor.
It didn’t take long for the Jets to draw a power play opportunity, as Neal Pionk went down following a trip by Josh Norris just 46 seconds into the period. Mathieu Perreault found his ninth goal of the season on the ensuing man advantage.
Centre Pierre-Luc Dubois corralled a loose puck along the boards and dished off to Andrew Copp, who calmly found Mathieu Perreault. In a swift motion, Perreault pulled the disc back and ripped it top corner past Murray, popping his bottle in the process.
“I don’t remember when was the last time,” Perreault said about his fancy leg-kicking, bottle-popping marker. “Yeah that was pretty sweet. Hit the water bottle like that doesn’t happen really often, so the sound that it makes is pretty cool.”
Winnipeg then added to its lead a few minutes later. With Copp in the box for hooking, Trevor Lewis scored his second shorthanded tally of the season. Owning both of the Jets’ shorthanded goals, Lewis beat out Thomas Chabot on a puck race down ice, before putting a wrist shot past Murray, giving Winnipeg a two-goal lead. Lewis’ third goal of the season came 9:39 into the frame and saw fellow vet Nate Thompson collect the lone assist.
“I think Tommer has just cleared it and it Chabot, kind of didn’t know where it was,” Lewis recalled. “I didn’t know if Murray was going to come out there, I just skated and he stayed in and I just took it to the net, fortunate to bury it.”
On a late-game six-on-three, empty-net man advantage, Josh Norris brought the Senators to within one goal, scoring a one-timer with just over 10 seconds left to play. But that was as close as the home team would get, as Winnipeg dumped the puck down into the Ottawa end and sealed the deal on a 3-2 victory.
“It doesn’t happen very often, does it?,” Brossoit said of the late-game six-on-three. “I personally don’t change a thing. You just play it kind of like a power play. There is an extra guy screening you, so it makes it a little bit more challenging for sure. I don’t think there is a set template or a rule or really anything that you could do that’s a staple. You just have to grind it.”
Brossoit stopped 27 of Ottawa’s 29 shots on the night, while seeing his record improve to 6-3-0 with the win on Wednesday. His counterpart Matt Murray turned aside 32 of Winnipeg’s 35 shots, who saw his record fall to 7-13-1 on the season.
“He’s been doing it over and over again since he’s been here, anyways,” Perreault said of Brossoit. “He’s a great goaltender. Shooting on him in practice, we all know how good he can be. So any time he’s in the net, we all feel comfortable knowing that he’s going to make the saves. He’s a great goaltender, and we’re lucky to have him as a backup, for sure.”
With the victory, Winnipeg’s record now sits at 26-14-3 through 43 games, giving the team 55 points and a .640 points percentage. Now having played as many games as the first place Toronto Maple Leafs, the Jets sit just five points back of Toronto for the division’s top spot.
Having completed the two-game set with Ottawa, the Jets will travel slightly west to the aforementioned Toronto for a one-game showdown with the Maple Leafs on Thursday. The game will mark the ending of a 22-game stretch in which Winnipeg played 17 road contests.
After Thursday’s 6:00 PM central matchup, the Jets return home to Bell MTS Place to begin a six-game homestand on Saturday. Of the team’s 14 remaining games, nine come at home. Saturday’s battle against the visiting Edmonton Oilers will be available on Sportsnet at 9:00 PM.