Third line’s the charm

Copp, Roslovic and Harkins team up to burn Blues again

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ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues have likely seen just about enough of the Winnipeg’s third line. The Jets just hope their depth scoring keeps coming in waves. 

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/02/2020 (917 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues have likely seen just about enough of the Winnipeg’s third line. The Jets just hope their depth scoring keeps coming in waves. 

Burned by the trio of Andrew Copp, Jack Roslovic and Jansen Harkins in a 5-2 loss last Saturday at Bell MTS Place — not to mention the rock-solid goaltending of Connor Hellebuyck — an eerily similar script unfolded Thursday night at Enterprise Center. 

Harkins opened the scoring with his first NHL goal and added an assist, Copp broke a tie with just over 10 minutes left in the third period to go with an earlier helper, and Roslovic had two assists to pace the Jets to a gutsy 4-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions. 

(AP Photo/Scott Kane) Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Copp, centre, celebrates after scoring during the third period against the St. Louis Blues, Thursday in St. Louis.

Winnipeg improves to 27-23-5, snapping a four-game losing skid away from home. St. Louis falls to 32-15-8, losing in regulation for the first time in 12 games at home.

“Massive,” is how defenceman Nathan Beaulieu described the outcome. “It’s hard not to think about how meaningful those points are. That’s a huge win.”

Indeed, Winnipeg moves to within one point of the final Western Conference playoff spot, currently held by the Calgary Flames, with 27 games left in the regular season. They’re two behind the Arizona Coyotes, with a game in hand, for the first wild-card spot. 

(AP Photo/Scott Kane) Winnipeg Jets' Jansen Harkins, right, is congratulated by teammate Jack Roslovic after scoring his first NHL goal against the St. Louis Blues' during the first period.

“You just look where we are in the standings. It’s just so log-jammed where we’re at that every point matters. You look over the last four games, I think we’ve given ourselves a chance to win every single one of them. I think we’re playing pretty good hockey right now,” said Beaulieu. 

The Jets were facing a daunting schedule coming out of the all-star and extended players’ break, with their season potentially hanging in the balance. After a tough 2-1 loss last Friday to the powerhouse Boston Bruins, a game in which they dominated, it was really starting to look bleak.

But then came a 5-2 victory the next night over St. Louis, with Roslovic scoring the first two goals of the game and Copp netting the winner. They followed that up with a 2-1 overtime defeat on Tuesday to the Nashville Predators, and now this result gives them five out of the last six points. 

(AP Photo/Scott Kane) Winnipeg Jets' Nathan Beaulieu, left, and Mason Appleton, right, help teammate Luca Sbisa, off the ice after Sbisa was injured blocking a shot during the second period.

“We saw it here in this mix, our goaltending has been very strong for four straight games. The defensive compete, of the four, our Boston (game) was our best and Nashville was No. 2 and it turns out the other two games we actually win. Goaltending and the back end, they’re fighting hard,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. 

Hellebuyck was a big part of the latest victory, making 35 saves Thursday.

Harkins opened the scoring at 7:55 of the first period, firing a hard wrist shot past Jordan Binnington. He was playing in his 15th game since being called up from the Manitoba Moose. 

(AP Photo/Scott Kane) St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington defends the goal as Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele handles the puck during the first period Thursday in St. Louis.

“It’s obviously a pretty special moment for me. Our line played pretty solid all night, so happy to get rewarded,” said Harkins. “I think we played a hard, simple game. Get in on the puck, win some battles. Obviously both really good players (Roslovic and Copp), they make good plays out there.”

It turns out Copp is a bit of a fortune teller.

“I told him before the game ‘Tonight’s the night’,” said Copp. “Awesome. A pretty special time for him and his family. Really, really happy for him and the overall game that we played. I’m happy it was in a game like that where our line contributes.”

(AP Photo/Scott Kane) Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck guards the goal while teammate Nikolaj Ehlers dives to poke the puck from St. Louis Blues' Brayden Schenn during the second period.

Patrik Laine gave the Jets a 2-0 lead at 5:58 of the middle frame, finishing off a three-on-one with a perfectly-timed shot off a Mark Scheifele pass. Laine’s 20th of the season gives him 130 on his career, making him the ninth player in NHL history to hit that mark before his 22nd birthday.

Then the Blues began to to tilt the ice in their favour, eventually earning a power play with a lengthy offensive-zone shift that ended with a Sami Niku holding penalty. Colton Parayko made them pay, beating Hellebuyck just seconds after teammate Robert Thomas hit the post. 

That goal, at 11:16, gave the home team even more jump, and they tied it up at 13:36 when Carl Gunnarson’s wrist shot went through a crowd and beat Hellebuyck. It appeared to be tipped on the way in, with Zach Sanford at one point given credit, so it likely hit a Winnipeg stick.

Suddenly, Winnipeg’s lead was gone. But rather than panic, they continued chipping away. On the winning goal, Roslovic fired a shot that Binnington bobbled. Harkins crashed hard to the net and swatted it to Copp, who poked it just across the goal-line at 9:04 of the third period for his ninth of the season. 

“At the end of the day, handling that (situation) is key. We’re going to be in a lot of tight games like that where it’s tied with less than 10 minutes to go, and we need to be comfortable in those games and win those games,” said Copp.

He couldn’t explain back-to-back game-winners against the Blues. 

“There’s teams you feel good against and teams you don’t… But for whatever reason maybe (we) gained some confidence in the playoffs last year,” said Copp.

Nikolaj Ehlers, with his first goal in 11 games, sealed it with an empty-netter in the final minute.

The win was especially gutsy considering the Jets lost defenceman Luca Sbisa in the second period after he took a slapshot off the inside of a leg and had to be helped off the ice. That left Winnipeg with just five blue-liners for the rest of the night.

“It’s difficult because he’s my partner. Sacrificing the body, I’ve unfortunately been there and know how much that sucks,” said Beaulieu, who was playing his first game since going down with a shot-blocking injury on Dec. 31. 

“It seems like this team battles adversity every single night no matter what way it is. A lot of character in this room.”

This was the end of the four-game season series, with each team winning twice. Winnipeg now returns home for six straight games at Bell MTS Place, beginning with a Saturday afternoon visit from the Ottawa Senators.

“We’ve got to right the ship here a little bit at home. Six big ones. It’s going to be really important for us to get a lot of those possible points,” said Copp.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

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.

History

Updated on Thursday, February 6, 2020 10:01 PM CST: Adds photo

Updated on Thursday, February 6, 2020 10:34 PM CST: Adds image.

Updated on Thursday, February 6, 2020 11:17 PM CST: Full write through

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