Determined Jets blank Blackhawks

Hellebuyck stellar in net, young guns (and one oldster) fill net

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If the Winnipeg Jets wanted a litmus test of how far they have come, they got a clear indicator Tuesday night.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/11/2016 (2214 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If the Winnipeg Jets wanted a litmus test of how far they have come, they got a clear indicator Tuesday night.

Winnipeg, which had collected points in four consecutive games, hosted the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks at the MTS Centre. The Hawks had been looking a lot like the Stanley Cup contenders again lately, and entered the game on a 9-0-2 streak.

But the Jets were undeterred, taking a 1-0 lead on a first-period blast by rookie defenceman Josh Morrissey and carried that advantage into the third period before exploding for three more goals and a 4-0 triumph.

John Woods / The Canadian Press Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews clears Winnipeg Jets' Toby Enstrom as he attempts to screen Jets' goaltender Connor Hellebuyck Tuesday at the MTS Centre.

Morrissey’s goal, the fourth career first by a Winnipeg rookie in 2016-17, was the result of some nifty playmaking by Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele.

But the Jets seemed to revert to form in the second, their worst period by far this season, getting outshot 12-7 but emerging unscathed.

Connor Hellebuyck, making his sixth start in seven games, was a big reason for that.

The 23-year-old goaltender never seemed to be in any trouble, even when Winnipeg was killing off a 5-on-3 Chicago power play for 1:07 in the middle frame.

“What’s not perfect about it?” said Hellebuyck, who stopped 27 shots for his third career shutout. “Four-nothing, four goals, shutout. I liked it.”

Morrissey’s definition of perfection didn’t match Hellebuyck’s, but he was pleased nonetheless.

“You’re always in search of a perfect game, said Morrissey. “I don’t know if you can ever fully do it. There’s things we have to work on — our second period we had some big penalty kills. We kinda took our foot off the gas, I feel, a little bit. We played too much of a cute game in the second. Our third period was amazing and like I said, Helly was outstanding in net and when you get goaltending like that, it’s huge.”

At 4:41 of the third, the hosts got some insurance when they badly needed it.

Veteran Chris Thorburn corralled Paul Postma’s feed on the boards before wheeling and firing the puck over Corey Crawford’s right shoulder.

Within four minutes, the Jets pushed the lead to 4-0 lead thanks to Patrik Laine’s league-leading 12th of the season, a clever chip over Crawford after Dustin Byfuglien’s rebound came loose, and Nic Petan, with his first of 2016-17, on a setup from Marko Dano. It was the end of the night for Crawford, who was replaced by Scott Darling.

“After the second, we came in (to the locker room) and we knew we weren’t playing to our strengths,” said Thorburn. “… They play a solid game and they kind of suck you into playing their game and they did that to us in the second. So, we were committed to changing that in the third and I thought we did a good job of bouncing back.”

Winnipeg improved to 9-7-2 while Chicago, playing the first of seven consecutive road games, fell to 11-3-4.

Shutting down one of the league’s powerhouse offences was a big achievement. Hellebuyck has stopped 78 of 82 shots in his last three games, all wins, good for a .951 save percentage.

“I think we’re really buying into the D-zone,” said Hellebuyck. “We’re doing the little things correct and they’re getting in front of shots and they’re making my life easier, which is making it easier for them. Once they get in the offensive zone, they have so much talent. I mean, you saw it… three goals in the third.”

Said Hawks forward Marian Hossa: “We had a few chances, but obviously they played excellent defensively. It wasn’t our day. We tried to break it. I think in the second period we had a couple good chances, but they played too well defensively and their goalie was hot.”

Trouba unscathed

Jets blue-liner Jacob Trouba, playing his third game since ending a lengthy contract impasse, was struck dangerously close to his head with a puck when went down to block a slapshot from Hawks defenceman Duncan Keith in the second period.

Miraculously, Trouba popped right up after the play and went briefly to the locker room before returning to action.

“It just hit me in the neck,” said Trouba, laughing. “It’s no worse than any other shot… it’s under my hair. They said there’s a little mark and no blood.”

Noteworthy

Veteran forwards Bryan Little (upper body) and Drew Stafford (upper body) skated Tuesday and will join the team for their five-game road trip beginning Thursday in Philadelphia against the Flyers. Centre Mathieu Perreault (upper body) will also make the trip. All three, plus blue-liner Tyler Myers (lower body), could return to the lineup before the club returns home after a Nov. 25 game in Nashville.

Meanwhile, rookie winger Kyle Connor (upper body) will be out at least a week after being placed on injured reserve Monday. Forwards Shawn Matthias (lower body) and Joel Armia (lower body) are longer term injuries and are on IR.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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