Jets 4-1 win not pretty, but didn’t need to be

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Wrapping up wins in the NHL doesn't always involve decorative paper, accented with a matching bow and glossy ribbon.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/12/2016 (2173 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Wrapping up wins in the NHL doesn’t always involve decorative paper, accented with a matching bow and glossy ribbon.

Sometimes, newspaper, duct tape and good intentions work just as well.

There were a few “wow” moments Sunday afternoon at MTS Centre, but for the most part the Winnipeg Jets secured their second-straight victory at home with a simple, well-executed scheme that proved mighty effective.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers (27) wraps the puck around the goalpost on an empty net for the team's fourth goal, and his second of the game, against the Colorado Avalanche.

After a scoreless first period, the Jets got a dynamite goal from Patrik Laine — his 18th of the year — in the second period and then put in the work defensively to close out the day with a 4-1 triumph over the struggling Colorado Avalanche.

After picking up just one point in four games earlier this month, Winnipeg bounced back with wins against Florida and Colorado this week to up its record to 15-16-3.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler, with his ninth goal of the season, and Nikolaj Ehlers, with his sixth and just his second in 19 contests, beat goalie Calvin Pickard early in the third period to blow the game open.

Ehlers added his seventh into an empty net for his first multiple-goal game of the year.

Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck stopped 27 shots for his 12th win of the 2016-17 campaign. The only shot he missed was a laser from the point by veteran right-winger Jarome Iginla, whose fourth of the year to pull the Avs to within two was generated on a late power-play and Pickard on the bench for an extra skater.

A sizeable chunk of the game was a snoozer, but right now dazzling their fans means grabbing as many points as the Jets can, by any means possible.

“I thought it looked pretty good,” said Wheeler. “Sometimes, when it doesn’t feel like a whole lot’s going on out there, that’s when you’re playing your best. Staying on pucks, a lot of stopping and starting, don’t give them a whole lot, and finally (we) broke them down in the third.

“Sometimes, it can be a little monotonous, but when everyone buys into it, it’s a pretty good feeling after the game.”

The Avs remain in last place in the NHL, losing their third straight game to fall to 11-18-1.

Last weekend, a weary-looking Jets squad suffered back-to-back road losses to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. Buoyed by two days off to start the week, the Jets bookended a 4-3 shootout victory over Florida on Thursday with much-needed practices on Wednesday and Saturday.

Wheeler said the balanced work week paid dividends as the team battles to remain in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Jets are ninth in the conference, a point back of the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary.

“We kind of limped into the little mini-break we had there but got some good rest here at home and took care of business,” he said. “We had to get back on track. It was two huge games here at home, two huge games in Vancouver now. We want to go into the break feeling good about ourselves.”

The Jets play the Canucks on Tuesday and Thursday nights at Rogers Arena before enjoying a couple of days off for Christmas.

Top line produces

Pickard, who was raised in Winnipeg, was the top performer on a very poor Colorado club, stopping 26 shots. He didn’t have a prayer on the game-opener by Laine, who halted a four-game scoring drought.

The 18-year-old sniper was locked and loaded on a two-on-one break with Mark Scheifele and pulled the trigger on a one-time slapshot after a terrific setup from his centreman just over seven minutes into the second period.

Fifteen of his tallies have come on home ice.

Defenceman Paul Postma needed a couple of tries to chip the puck out of his own end before springing Scheifele and the Finnish rookie.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine digs into the corner against Mokhail Grigorenko and Matt Duchene at the MTS Centre Sunday afternoon. Laine got the Jets on the board with a second-period laser.

“It was a good play from Postie at the blue line and we got a two against one with Scheif, and he’s — like everybody saw — a really good passer. He passed the puck to me and it was easy to score,” said Laine.

“Of course, I knew he was going to pass so I had to be ready.”

Laine also set up both of Ehlers goals and has 29 points, the most this season by an NHL rookie. He has six more points than Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, both of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The trio of Scheifele, Laine and Ehlers finished with seven points.

“I think we’re playing pretty well together. Everybody sees that we have a lot of chemistry together, but I think it’s (the coach’s) decision, he’s making those decisions as he wants and as he sees what’s best for the team. All the players are really good, so it really doesn’t matter who I’m playing with,” said Laine.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice was pleased with the performance of his hockey club, noting the days off did some good.

“We stopped and started on pucks and won one-on-one battles and to me that’s rest,” he said. “It was in practice (Saturday); we were strong through the whole — it was only 40-45 minutes — but we were able to push straight through it so they looked physically quite a bit stronger.

“And when you’re a little better rested you can stop and start, win battles and get sticks on pucks. So we were just stronger, and that’s the kind of game that was today. They’ve got quite a bit of size and they want to out work you in the corners and we were really good in those two departments.”

Heavyweight bout

Jets forward Chris Thorburn beefed up his league-leading fight total with a first-period scrap with Binscarth native Cody McLeod.

The familiar foes have squared off six times over the last three seasons.

Thorburn has nine fighting majors this season, most in the NHL, and is on pace to eclipse a career-high 12 fights during the 2008-09 campaign when he played for the Atlanta Thrashers.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

History

Updated on Sunday, December 18, 2016 8:03 PM CST: fixes typo

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