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Jets Double up Sabres in First of Back-to-Back

Photo by James Carey Lauder

Jets Double up Sabres in First of Back-to-Back

It was just two nights ago that Michigan product Connor Hellebuyck watched from the visitors’ bench of Little Caesar’s Arena as his hometown Detroit Red Wings put the finishing touches on a a 7-5 empty-netter insurance marker in a game Hellebuyck and the Jets were chasing from the very get-go.

It wasn’t a strong showing in the arena situated just 30 miles from Hellebuyck’s childhood home – some might dare say it was his worst of the season – but that all changed come Thursday in Buffalo.

Facing off against the Sabres in the first game of a back-to-back also featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, the Jets’ No. 1 netminder showed up to play, turning aside 39 of the 41 pucks fired his way, while the typical offensive stars did their thing, as Winnipeg bounced back for its sixth win in its last seven games, by way of a 4-2 empty-net final.

“He was outstanding tonight,” Hellebuyck’s head coach Rick Bowness said. “He was the difference maker.”

“That team has a ton of skill over there, wow,” Bowness added. “They’ve got a ton of skill, speed. They spread the ice out well offensively. There were too many breakdowns where Connor was the difference.”

The Jets potted three even-strength tallies, before Karson Kuhlman got his first goal with the organization – an empty-netter as goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen watched on from the bench.

Kyle Connor had a goal and an assist, while Nikolaj Ehlers picked up two helpers on the night as eight different Jets recorded points at KeyBank Center.

Dylan Samberg opened the scoring 6:35 into the game, before Victor Olofsson knotted it up midway through the frame. Josh Morrissey snapped his two-game pointless streak with a long-range point shot that found its way through a screen midway into the second, but once again, the Sabres tied it up, as Tyson Jost got one back with just 2:50 having ticked off the clock in the third period.

Five minutes later, Kyle Connor scored the winner on a breakaway play setup by the speedy Nikolaj Ehlers.

“The game’s on the line, you get a little extra jump in your step. You want to be the difference maker,” Connor said. “I just gave him kind of a little fake shot and he froze pretty good. Backhand, forehand, lost an edge, but I had him so it worked out.”

The Jets killed off two third period penalties en route to their 27th win of the season. Winnipeg is now 27-14-1 on the year and remains a point back of Dallas for first place in the Central Division.

Next up is the final game of the three-game-in-four-night stretch as the Jets visit Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is set for 6:00 PM central time and the game can be viewed live on Sportsnet.

 

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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