Jets grab stranglehold on series
Hellebuyck stones Wild, Scheifele takes care of scoring
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/04/2018 (1756 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Winnipeg Jets are on the verge of capturing their first playoff series in franchise history — and they can make it happen on home ice Friday.
Leaning heavily on goalie Connor Hellebuyck for 40 minutes, the Jets put in a poised, confident final period to register a sound 2-0 victory Tuesday night over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
Winnipeg seized a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference opening-round series. Game 5 is set for Bell MTS Place on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Top-line centre Mark Scheifele pulled the trigger on both goals, the first coming with just 28 seconds left in the first period and the second deposted into an empty net with 11 seconds left on the clock.
He was Winnipeg’s finest skater but Hellebuyck went unmatched as the best player on the ice, turning aside 30 shots from a Wild squad desperate to draw even in the series.
Before the game, the NHL named him one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie.
“(Hellebuyck) is awesome. He’s been like that all year. He deserves that accolade for sure,” said Scheifele. “He’s the reason why we made the playoffs and why we’re here. He’s been the backbone of this team all year.”
While Minnesota came in waves through two periods, Winnipeg refused to crack and then all but shut down the Wild attack in the third. In fact, the Jets had the better chances down the stretch. Scheifele hit the post in the last five minutes and Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk poke-checked Patrik Laine on a partial breakaway with less than three minutes to go.
“Everyone came together as a consensus after the second period and realized how important that third was. It was a pretty excited room just to get out there. I don’t think anyone even wanted an intermission at that point,” said Jets defenceman Joe Morrow.
“I think everyone just wanted to get out there and continue to strike, continue to keep going, keep going at them offensively. I think that’s the key to this team. If we’re up a couple of goals or down a couple, we really do play the same way, play intense, play in their face.”
It was a sound recovery for the Jets after a clunker in Game 3, won 6-2 by the Wild. Maurice and several Winnipeg skaters diagnosed the problem as a speed deficiency Sunday night, but the visitors left their snowshoes at the hotel and put on their workboots, instead, Tuesday night.
The Jets gutted this one out.
To borrow Maurice’s parlance, Hellebuyck was right from puck drop to the final whistle, sliding post to post to make a couple of terrific saves, blocking shots through clusters of bodies and locating loose pucks anywhere near the blue paint.
Among the number of his Grade A++ stops, he robbed Eric Staal from the top of the crease in the opening period and dove with an outstretched glove to thwart Matt Dumba, the trailer on a 3-on-1 break, in the second.
It was a redemption game, to be sure, after getting the hook after two periods Sunday.
“It might be textbook, I don’t know. You can read hockey books and it might say, ‘Shutout after pull…’ I don’t know,” Hellebuyck said, with a grin.
With the game scoreless in the first period and Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba already in the box serving an interference minor, Touba’s defence-mate Josh Morrissey somehow got away with a cross-check to the side of Staal’s head with the veteran centre in the high slot.
Expect the NHL’s department of player safety to review the play. Winnipeg can ill afford to lose another defenceman, particularly the guy who’s been their most dependable all season long.
Morrissey said the careless use of the lumber was accidental.
“I’m not a dirty player, I don’t believe,” he said. “I watched the video afterwards, and we’re battling in front of the net on the penalty kill, and I’m actually looking at the puck on the wall, trying to box him out. I got my stick up too high on him. It was a complete accident. I would never try to do that. I was glad he was able to come back and play the rest of the game.”
A clearly perturbed Staal was asked for his take on the play.
“I don’t really honestly have more to say. He cross-checked me in the neck. It is what it is,” said Staal. “(The referee) apologized. I’m not looking for an apology. I’m in the middle of the game, why would I want an apology? It’s frustrating. It is what it is.”
Minnesota head coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t mince words.
“Well, my take is it’s the same take that everybody in the building saw it, as the refs looked at it and they decided not to call it because we were already on the power play. It cost us the game,” he said.
Kyle Connor was the best Jets forward in a loss in Game 3 and he resumed his strong play Tuesday, buzzing the Wild end with a gritty forecheck. But he flashed his shifty hands to orchestrate the game-opener, slipping through crack and then feeding Scheifele, whose quick shot beat Dubnyk cleanly.
“At some point you need your drivers to be the difference in the game, and they were the one line we had that had some sustained offence and some pressure,” said Maurice, of his top trio of Scheifele, Connor and captain Blake Wheeler. “(They) scored a huge goal at the end of the period.
“They needed that, a good feeling, and to be a clear difference-maker.”
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).
Updated on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 11:22 PM CDT: Adds coach's first name on first reference.
Updated on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 11:27 PM CDT: Clarifies a quote
Updated on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 11:51 PM CDT: Removes coaches first name on second reference.
Updated on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 9:05 AM CDT: Minor changes