It is simply amazing the difference that five minutes can make on the outcome of a hockey game.
Having led the way for 55 minutes, the Winnipeg Jets collapsed late in the third period to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, blowing a late-game 3-0 lead, but managed to bounce back in overtime, winning the game 4-3.
“It’s not for media what went through my mind; a lot of swear words,” goaltender David Rittich said post-game. “But we stick with that and get an important two points, which is most important.”
With Canes’ head coach Rod Brind’Amour opting to pull his goaltender late (and often) Carolina stormed back with three goals in 4:09 to tie the game 3-3 with just 38 seconds remaining, sending it to overtime and guaranteeing each team at least one point.
“It’s kind of game-over,” Hurricanes’ forward Martin Necas said post-game. “It’s 3-0 with five minutes left. It doesn’t matter if you lose 4-0 or 5-0. It was a good decision by our coaches and it worked out. If you look at it with five minutes left in the period and you’re losing 3-0 and you still get a point from the game, it’s pretty good for us. But we could have done better.”
Josh Morrissey ultimately won the game for Winnipeg on his second of the game, sending fans home after 2:10 of the overtime period.
Monday’s game also marked ‘90’s Night’ from Canada Life Centre, as the visitors donned their dark jerseys and the Jets wore the reverse retro throwback white and blue uniforms. Fans were given free fanny packs upon entrance, while the scoreboard and music also fit the bill nicely.
Sadly, as has been the case so far this year, the attendance also marked that of the 1990s, as a number of sizeable chunks of seats remained wide open all night. Sure, it may have been a 6:30 PM start time, but with just two sellouts on the year, attendance figures haven’t been a strong suit of True North’s this season. The ‘90’s pricing’ offered in the concourse ($1 off Mike’s Hard Iced Tea) certainly didn’t do much to reduce the damage to the wallet, while many of the $22 Seat Geek seats didn’t even find takers.
90’s Night at @CanadaLifeCtr.
Fantastic looking retro jumbotron. pic.twitter.com/0bBIWJA4bV
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) November 21, 2022
Coming off a 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, Winnipeg did appear rejuvenated on Monday. Managing a goal in the opening frame, the Jets added another in the second period before a third period tally seemingly sealed the deal for Winnipeg, before a monumental collapse late in the third.
Backup netminder David Rittich was given the nod, and the choice seemingly paid off, with the 30-year-old looking calm, cool and collected in the Jets’ crease, turning aside 26 pucks, while being on the receiving end of a faint ‘Big Save Dave’ chant.
Winnipeg opened the scoring late in the first period, as Blake Wheeler fed Pierre-Luc Dubois a perfect breakaway pass, to which the young centreman calmly potted his eighth of the season, beating Pyotr Kochetkov low, blocker side.
After pulling ahead 8-7 in the shot department through 20 minutes, the Jets fell behind 18-16 as the second period came to a close, despite having 1:31 of 5-on-3 power play time.
Winnipeg did get its second goal in the middle stanza, with the ‘AHL line’ of Jansen Harkins, David Gustafsson and Mikey Eyssimont picking up points on a mid-period marker. It was Eyssimont’s first career NHL tally, as he picked up the garbage on Gustafsson’s breakaway miss, smiling wilding at the fulfillment of his childhood dreams.
“I’ve visualized it for my whole life, so to finally get it, you never know how it’s going to happen,” Eyssimont smiled. “You’ve just got to be opportunistic, I guess. My linemates helped me out a lot tonight, making it happen.”
“Give him credit,” Bowness said of Eyssimont. “That’s him. He saw the opportunity to get up. He’s a scrappy little guy, he’s fearless. As we mentioned before, he’s on the forecheck, he’s not the biggest guy, he’s not the fastest guy, but he’s in there and he’s effective – he does the job we need him to do. I was happy he got a reward.”
The third period opened with Josh Morrissey’s second of the season, as the defenceman buried a shot past Kochetkov on another perfect setup play from Blake Wheeler. Scoring at 3:56 of the third period, all Rick Bowness’ team needed for the remainder of the frame was a solid back-checking effort and strong defensive structure. And for the most part, his boys delivered.
Carolina opted to pull its netminder for the extra attacked with just over five minutes to play, and the decision paid off. Jaccob Slavin scored his first of the season with 4;48 remaining, cutting Winnipeg’s lead to just two goals.
Then. with 3:08 to go and Kochetkov back on the bench, the Hurricanes found another. This time it was another long-range point shot from Brent Burns, to which Andrei Svechnikov redirected through Rittich and into the net.
A huge stop by Slavin on a Kyle Connor empty-net try proved to be huge, as Winnipegger Seth Jarvis got the puck down the other way and helped setup Stefan Noesen for the game-tying goal with just 38 seconds remaining.
“In this game, it didn’t matter (when we pulled our goaltender),” Rod Brind’Amour said. “We talked about it at the eight-minute timeout. I’m like, ‘Why don’t we just try something crazy because this game is kind of flat for us.’ But we decided to wait a little longer. You get that one. If they get the fourth one, who cares, the game, it’s irrelevant. So that’s why you’re pulling him earlier and earlier. The trick is, I think, when you’re down two, not to pull him too early because you’re still in the game. So you’ve got to kind of manage that a little bit, but we had nothing to lose, it’s 3-0.”
But it was Josh Morrissey who got his second of the game and won it for the Jets in overtime, scoring on a breakaway pass from Pierre-Luc Dubois 2:10 into the extra frame.
“That’s what you have to do in overtime, you have to take some gambles,” Bowness said of the winner. “We had some really good looks. Mark has some good looks in overtime. He just read the play. That’s hockey IQ, man. Just a great shot. That’s two goals on breakaways tonight. That was good to see.”
Rittich ultimately turned aside 26 Hurricanes shots, seeing his record improve to 3-1-0 on the season, while Kochetkov made 19 stops falling to 2-0-2 on the year.
And what Rittich said to Morrissey following the game-winner?
“He shouldn’t have screened the first one, but good job buddy.”
Next up for Winnipeg is a three-game Central Division road trip with stops in Minnesota, Dallas and Chicago over the next six days. Puck drop in Minnesota is set for 6:00 PM central on Wednesday.