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Winnipeg Moves to Five Points of Dallas with Win in Montreal

Photo by James Carey Lauder

Winnipeg Moves to Five Points of Dallas with Win in Montreal

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

Yes, there is a chance.

A very slim chance, but a chance, nonetheless.

The Winnipeg Jets have clearly not fed into the notion that the team has less than a five percent opportunity to make it to the postseason.

“We’re just trying to win games, get two points, one point, whatever you can do and hope to get some help from other teams,” Josh Morrissey said on Monday night. “But I don’t think we really talk about anything bigger than the next game. You can’t really look too far in the future. We know where we’re at.”

Following a 4-3 win over Ottawa on Sunday, the club travelled further east to Montreal for a visit with another cellar-dwelling club. The Canadiens – which had just lost 3-2 to Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday – began the game strong, putting up the first few shots on net, to no surprise of the average Jets fan.

A scoreless first period led to a quick start from Montreal in the middle stanza. Former Jets forward Joel Armia scored his sixth of the season just 29 seconds into the frame, on a play that appeared eerily similar to that of Brady Tkachuk’s baseball-style video from the night before.

Christian Dvorak put the puck on net, to which the rebound shot straight up in the air. Armia tracked the disc and took a swing, punching it through Connor Hellebuyck and into the cage for a 1-o lead in the very early stages of the period.

But from that point in the second period onward, it was essentially ‘all Jets’.

Morgan Barron – who came to Winnipeg alongside the two second round draft picks from New York in the Andrew Copp trade – picked up his first goal as a member of the Jets, and second career NHL tally, on a nice drop pass from Nikolaj Ehlers. Scoring just a minute after Armia’s goal, Barron helped restore the momentum to the visitors with his second of the season.

“Sometimes you feel like he doesn’t even see you but that’s what what he wants everybody else to think, including their defencemen,” Barron said of Ehlers. “I kind of felt like he just sucked that defenceman (to him) and it created a hole for me. I had some time to get a shot off and I just let it go. I didn’t even see it go into the net actually, someone came across my vision. Obviously it went in, so it was good.”

After picking up the secondary assist on Barron’s goal, defenceman Dylan Samberg remained busy, picking up another assist as he found Barron, who got the puck to Paul Stastny for his 20th of the season just two minutes later.

For Stastny, it was his 20th of the season, marking a milestone he hadn’t hit since 2014, back when he was a member of the St. Louis Blues.

“I was excited,” Barron said of the opportunity to play alongside Ehlers and Stastny. “I know I played a few shifts with those guys the other night and I felt good. They’re obviously two really good players. I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to show that I can play up the lineup. This was kind of my first opportunity to show that I can play in the top-six as well, so I was excited for the opportunity.”

Taking over the shot lead in the second period, Winnipeg hit the dressing room up 26-18 after 40 minutes. Goaltender Sam Montembeault did managed to regain his composure in the later stages of the period for Montreal, however.

“Yeah, he made some great saves,” Barron said of Montembeault. “It seemed like they were pretty spread out, but at the end I was watching the Jumbotron and there’s a highlight package of some of the saves he made and it felt like we had a ton of opportunities and he came up with some big saves, as did Bucky. He made some huge ones that kept us in it, so that was good.”

Again, it was the Canadiens that came out of the intermission revitalized. Scoring 6:19 into the third period, the Habs capitalized on a Neal Pionk icing call that left a tired Jets crew trapped in the defensive zone.

Nick Suzuki won the offensive zone face-off, to which Jeff Petry walked the blueline and hammered a slap shot that deflected off Josh Anderson and found its way through Hellebuyck. For Anderson, it was his 100th career goal.

For the Jets, it was an aggravating defensive breakdown, to which they responded a few minutes later.

Evgeny Svechnikov – who has found himself out of luck more often than not this season – scored what became the eventual game-winner with 8:59 to play. Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois passed the puck back and forth as they made their way out of the Jets’ zone and into Montreal’s end. Eventually finding Svechnikov, they watched as their linemate fired the puck through Montembeault and a Dubois screen, pulling Winnipeg ahead 3-2.

With Montreal opting to pull its netminder for the extra attacker, Adam Lowry made the home team pay, as he scored his 12th of the season on Winnipeg’s 34th shot into the empty net, sealing the deal on a 4-2 win.

Connor Hellebuyck improved to 27-25-10 on the year in his league-leading 62nd start of the year, while the Jets improved to 5-o on the season without both Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, who were out of the lineup on Monday following recent injuries.

“Obviously we’ve got some top players out of the lineup,” Morrissey said. “Every team goes through that. We’ve been through that before. Obviously we’re dealing with some injuries now.”

Winnipeg has now won seven of its last nine road games, while posting a 2-0-1 record in its last three games overall. The Jets sit five points back of the Dallas Stars for the final Western Conference wild card spot with an important home game against Seattle on Wednesday.

They are 35-28-11 on the season with eight games remaining on the schedule. Dallas, however, has two games in hand on Winnipeg, and will continue its season against Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Should the Stars lose to the Bolts, and the Jets beat the Kraken, Winnipeg could be three points out of the wild card by Thursday morning.

“We’ve just got to continue to play the same way,” interim head coach Dave Lowry said. “Continue to execute what we talk about. And both these teams that we just played, they play hard. They play fast, they play a long game, they stretch you out and our goaltender was very good both nights. That was the reason we found ways to win hockey games.”

Another team sitting between the Jets and the postseason is the Vegas Golden Knights – who are smack-dab right in the middle of Winnipeg and Dallas. The Knights have 84 points in 73 games played, sitting three points ahead of the Jets.

Winning will be paramount going forward should the Jets even think they have a chance.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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