Jets scratch out 4-3 win over Sabres


Advertise with us

They made it more difficult than it probably should have been. But since they don't count style points in the National Hockey League, the Winnipeg Jets will happily take the 4-3 win they scratched out over the sad-sack Buffalo Sabres Friday night even if they won't be adding the game film to their greatest hits collection.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/01/2018 (1975 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

They made it more difficult than it probably should have been. But since they don’t count style points in the National Hockey League, the Winnipeg Jets will happily take the 4-3 win they scratched out over the sad-sack Buffalo Sabres Friday night even if they won’t be adding the game film to their greatest hits collection.

This one had all the makings of a colossal mismatch on paper. Buffalo limped into town in the wee hours of the night, carrying a woeful 10-21-9 record which puts them next-to-last in the NHL standings. They were also playing for a second straight night after getting shellacked 6-2 in Minnesota on Thursday. Winnipeg, meanwhile, was well-rested and sitting pretty near the top of the Western Conference at 23-11-7, which includes the second-best home record in the league at 14-3-1. 

And so while a Jets victory wasn’t a surprise, the level of difficulty to achieve it perhaps was. Winnipeg was their own worst enemy at times with undisciplined play that resulted in five Buffalo power plays through the first 35 minutes of the game. Fortunately, the Jets killed them all off, and adding two power play goals of their own on four chances to propel them to victory. Winnipeg is now 4-0-1 in their five games since the Christmas break.

“Special teams was the difference for sure in the game,” said coach Paul Maurice, who wasn’t thrilled to see his normally disciplined team become somewhat reckless with their defending. 

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods Buffalo Sabres' Evan Rodrigues and Winnipeg Jets' Marko Dano look for the loose puck in front of Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson during the second period, Friday.

“You get your stick up, you got a chance to go to the box. We can’t take those stick penalties that we took,” he said. “It’s not something that’s on my radar that’s creeping into our game or we’ve seen a lot of. It was a really tightly called stick game and we had our sticks up.”

Dustin Byfuglien, playing in just his second game after missing 10 with a lower-body injury, opened the scoring with a big blast from the point on Winnipeg’s first man-advantage near the midway mark of the opening frame. It’s the first goal of the season for Byfuglien in 30 games, and his relief in finally lighting the lamp was evident in a huge celebration which included extending his arms, looking skyward and soaking in the cheers from the hometown faithful.

Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine drew the assists. For Laine, it’s the sixth helper in the past four games as he adds an element of playmaking to his arsenal.

Buffalo defenceman Marco Scandella tied it just over two minutes later, only seconds after Bryan Little stepped out of the penalty box. He fired a rolling puck which hit Andrew Copp’s glove and deflected past Connor Hellebuyck.

Jacob Trouba restored the lead with just over four minutes to play, as the fourth line did some good work on the forecheck. Copp fed Matt Hendricks who teed it up for Trouba to hammer home his third of the season. Trouba said the goal came using one of Joel Armia’s sample sticks which the forward didn’t like.

“The lie is different, the curve is different, the flex is different, the construction of the whole stick is different. It’s an inch shorter,” Trouba said, adding he stuck with it the rest of the game and likely will going forward.

Winnipeg made it 3-1 just over six minutes into the second period as Wheeler showed great patience in ripping a wrister past Buffalo goalie Chad Johnson with his team enjoying the man-advantage. Wheeler has now scored a goal in all four games since being moved to centre to fill the void left by Mark Scheifele’s injury. He has five goals and two assists in that span, and is up to 14 on the year. 

PHIL HOSSACK / Winnipeg Free Press Winnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien gets a warm welcome back from Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine in the first period as Byfuglien opened up the scoring against the Buffalo Sabres with his first goal of the season.

“I’ve told you all along, it’s not about points for me. It’s finding a way to help our team win. Obviously, when Scheifele went down, I wanted to step up and make an impact, but I’m not alone in that,” said Wheeler. “I think everyone did that. Team has been playing good, puck has been finding me. I think it’s just coincidence.”

Rather than look to build on the goal, Winnipeg kept handing Buffalo opportunities by taking three straight minor penalties. And while they escaped unscathed, the Sabres were generating plenty of good offensive chances and building momentum. One of those even came during some friendly fire, with Hellebuyck having to make a great leg save off a puck re-directed by Wheeler.

With the Jets on their heels, forward Johan Larsson cut the lead to 3-2 with just under two minutes left, jamming home a puck during a goalmouth scramble in which Winnipeg’s top line was guilty of some sloppy defensive play.

But then came a big goal by Little, who gave the Jets some breathing room as he scored on a rebound just 25 seconds into the final frame. 

“We didn’t plan on scoring on the first shift or second shift or whatever it was, but we wanted to come out hard and keep the pressure on them and not sit back,” said Little.

It proved to be the winner as Scott Wilson scored on a wrist shot from the slot with just over seven minutes left to put Buffalo back within one. The Sabres pressed for the equalizer in the final minutes but couldn’t cash in.

“That was one of our problems before. We weren’t comfortable in those tight games. We looked tight on the ice when we were down one or up one. The experience helps and we’ve gotten a lot better at handling the situation. We’re comfortable with it,” said Little.

Hellebuyck stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced to improve his personal record to 22-4-6.

Winnipeg snapped a dubious streak Friday, as they’d lost four straight to the Sabres dating back to their last victory in December 2014. The two teams will meet again next Tuesday in Buffalo.

“We play them again so there’s lots in that game we can get better at. I’m not discounting that team. I think it’s a pretty darn good team. A win is a good result in here. We’ll take what we need to get better at when we play them again,” said Maurice.

Prior to that, Winnipeg hosts San Jose at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

PHIL HOSSACK / Winnipeg Free Press Winnipeg Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba holds up Buffalo Sabres' Sam Reinhart in front of Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck.
Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.


Updated on Friday, January 5, 2018 9:54 PM CST: Edits photo captions

Updated on Friday, January 5, 2018 10:44 PM CST: Full write through

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us

Winnipeg Jets