Jets match Blues but fall 5-4 in OT
Penalty kill again rears ugly head as key issue
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/12/2019 (967 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There’s a reason the St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup champions. And they served up a reminder Friday night at Bell MTS Place, patiently wearing down a plucky Winnipeg Jets squad and ultimately skating away with a 5-4 overtime victory.
David Perron scored on a breakaway at 3:14 of the three-on-three skills session following a ghastly giveaway by Jets forward Mark Scheifele, who had a game to forget. The same could be said of goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who will want a couple of goals back.
Winnipeg falls to 21-14-3, including 2-4-1 in the past seven. They’ve also lost four straight games at home. St. Louis, the No. 1 team in the Western Conference, improves to 25-8-6 with their seventh straight victory.
“I think they’re such a veteran team, and that playoff run you learn so much from that and how to win games. Whether you’re holding a lead or coming back, it’s just a lot of experience for those guys and it definitely shows,” said Jets forward Kyle Connor, who scored twice.
“We were never out of it. We kept fighting back. It was a good battle. It kinda sucks we’re on the wrong end of it finishing off, but I think we can learn some stuff from that going into the next game.”
It was a see-saw affair as the two teams met for the first time since their six-game playoff series last spring. St. Louis held leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3, but Winnipeg kept finding a way to tie it up and at least salvage a point.
“Just one of those games. Good job by everyone staying in it. I thought we had a lot of real good players. Came up short,” said captain Blake Wheeler, who sent the game to overtime by scoring at 18:46 of the third period with Hellebuyck on the bench for an extra attacker.
Blues defenceman Justin Faulk opened the scoring just 70 seconds into the game, as his point shot somehow evaded Hellebuyck. Not exactly the start the Jets were looking for coming out of the three-day Christmas break and facing a heavyweight opponent.
But Winnipeg actually carried the play for most of the opening frame, outshooting the Blues 12-5 and finally getting rewarded with 46 seconds left. Forward Gabriel Bourque finished off a nice passing play with linemates Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton for his second of the season.
“Coming right out of the break, these games are always a little different. But they’re first in our conference and in the Central, so these are big points for us. I don’t think anybody needs help getting up for these games,” Connor said of the mindset coming in.
Alex Pietrangelo restored the lead at 5:30 of the middle frame, as he caught Hellebuyck cheating against the post and banked a shot in off him. Just like the first St. Louis goal, this one had a certain pungent aroma to it.
“There’s going to be some things that we’ll try to address a little bit better. Some of it we’ll look at our forecheck and the easy outs that they got on us.” – Jets coach Paul Maurice
Back came the Jets, as Connor ripped home his 16th of the season at 9:37.
Winnipeg’s penalty kill, the worst in the NHL, has been an ongoing issue all season. And it failed them again with Scheifele in the box for hooking, as Tyler Bozak snapped a shot past Hellebuyck at 16:08 of the middle frame.
Scheifele didn’t agree with the call and got a warning for barking at the officials as he exited the box, his team once again trailing.
Winnipeg has now given up eight power play goals over the last six games, killing off just eight penalties during that span. A 50 per cent success rate is a recipe for disaster in the NHL.
Connor struck again at 3:12 of the third period, this time with the Jets enjoying a man advantage. His 17th goal ties Scheifele for the team lead. But Bozak put the Blues back in front at 5:10, ripping a shot past Hellebuyck after some sloppy play by the Jets in their own end.
“There’s going to be some things that we’ll try to address a little bit better. Some of it we’ll look at our forecheck and the easy outs that they got on us. We’ll try to do a little bit better job of running routes on those plays. There’ll be some adjustments,” coach Paul Maurice said of his team.
Cue the late-game drama, as Wheeler made it 4-4 when he scored his 11th of the season. He poked home a loose puck created by a terrific Nikolaj Ehlers play, which included keeping the puck in the Blues end following an attempted clear.
“Just real good speed down that. It was a well-timed counter to an attack. And Nikky got in and got on that puck. That’s as quick a shift as he had all night,” said Maurice.
That set the stage for the overtime session, which you’d think would have been good news for a Jets team that had won four of five games settled in the five-minute session this season. But Scheifele, at the end of a long shift, made a terrible play to give the puck away directly to Bozak, who deked out Hellebuyck and went backhand for the game-winner.
“I thought we had some guys who looked real good from the drop of the puck and it took some others a little time to get into it,” said Wheeler, whose line was on the ice for three goals against.
“I think there was some good to take out of that, some guys can be happy with their performance and hopefully, next game, we can bring a little more to the table, especially our line. Can’t play like that.”
Hellebuyck had 30 saves, while Jordan Binnington made 25 stops.
Hellebuyck has now given up 21 goals on 186 shots over his last six starts, including one where he got yanked after two periods. He gone 1-4-1, with the lone win being a 31-save shutout last Saturday in Minnesota. That’s a 3.71 goals-against-average and an .887 save-percentage in that span.
The Jets and Blues meet again on Sunday afternoon in St. Louis, as the Jets kick off a two-game road trip which ends with a New Year’s eve visit to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche.
“I think there was a lot of good things in that game that we need to take with us to St. Louis and Denver. I think we had some chances to get two points. I think they were playing the way we expected before the game. They’re a tough team to beat, that’s for sure. Hopefully we can beat them in St, Louis,” said Patrik Laine, who had two assists.
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, December 27, 2019 11:22 PM CST: Full writethrough: adds quotes, details.