Jets stall, go into scramble mode

Brossoit saves day as team climbs back from two-goal hole

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Give up an early goal and fall behind? No problem. Dig yourself a two-goal deficit? Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Get badly outshot? Yawn.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/01/2021 (748 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Give up an early goal and fall behind? No problem. Dig yourself a two-goal deficit? Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Get badly outshot? Yawn.

The Winnipeg Jets, a team that has adopted catchphrases such as “staying in the fight” and “comfortable being uncomfortable” over the past couple of seasons, were up to their old tricks Tuesday night with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators that gets no style points, but counts for a valuable pair in the Canadian division.

Nikolaj Ehlers completed the comeback 2:20 into the three-on-three skills session, which was made possible by Blake Wheeler’s tying goal with 1:17 left in regulation, which came after Kyle Connor brought his team back within striking distance earlier in the game.

Winnipeg Jets players gather around Nikolaj Ehlers after he scored the game-winning goal in overtime past Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray in Ottawa on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Just like they drew it up, right?

“We battled our asses off to stay in the game,” said Ehlers.

And just like that, the Jets improved to 2-1-0 on the young season, despite never having carried a lead for a single second of play so far. (Their other victory, last Thursday over the Calgary Flames, included an identical 3-1 hole that ended in a 4-3 overtime triumph). 

A sustainable way to play and expect prolonged success? Probably not. But as the saying goes, they don’t ask how, just how many. And in a 56-game season, with every game being against a divisional rival, there’s no time to be picky.

“It comes straight from leadership. Things haven’t changed much for us year over year. We’ve added some players, for sure, but get into this season and into back-to-back games with key people out of our lineup and we know we’ve got some challenges on our blue line right now. So, we’ll look a certain way… it’s not going to look pretty at times,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said of the apparent recipe for success.

Ottawa Senators' Brady Tkachuk attempts to tip a puck past Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit as Jets centre Paul Stastny defends during the first period in Ottawa on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Forwards Patrik Laine (injury) and Jack Roslovic (unsigned) and defencemen Dylan DeMelo (personal) and Tucker Poolman (COVID protocol) would be in the lineup in a perfect world, but none was available.

“That’s the most important piece for any team, that the score on the clock doesn’t dictate your effort level, your compete level. Maybe more important than all of it is your belief. That’s the foundation that’s most important to our team — build that belief that the next shift can be better, the next game can be better… that you’re always giving yourself a chance to win,” said Maurice.

None of it would have been possible without the superb effort from backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who was under siege early as the Senators opened up a quick 1-0 lead — courtesy of the first NHL goal by Josh Norris — and a 10-1 shot advantage before the game was five minutes old.

The Jets talked a good game earlier in the day about needing a stronger start, especially after a tough outing in Toronto Monday night that led to a 3-1 defeat against the Maple Leafs. And then they came out and folded like a cheap suit, handling the puck like a grenade at times and leaving Brossoit to fend for himself.

“Since I’ve been in Winnipeg, we seem to get a lot of these. We’re definitely not a team that gives up after we get down. If anything, that motivates us, it seems, so (Tuesday night) seemed to be a bit of that,” said Brossoit.

Winnipeg Jets centre Mark Scheifele gets squeezed out by Ottawa Senators Chris Tierney and Nick Paul during the first period in Ottawa Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

When Chris Tierney made it 2-0 at 10:31 of the opening frame, it looked like the Jets were about to get blown out of the building by a team that many see as the free space on the NHL bingo card.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a rout. Winnipeg’s third line came through with just under two minutes left, as Adam Lowry tipped a Neal Pionk point shot to give the Jets some life heading into the intermission.

It was somewhat short-lived, however, as Alex Galchenyuk blasted a one-timer past Brossoit on the power play midway through the second period, with Sami Niku once again in the penalty box. The inconsistent young Finnish defenceman, promoted to the top pairing with Josh Morrissey, had a terrible 48 hours.

He took a lazy penalty against the Maple Leafs that cost the Jets a goal, and followed that up with two more infractions Tuesday night. He’s getting a lot of attention for his play — but for all the wrong reasons. And it’s especially painful for a team that has already surrendered four power-play goals on just nine chances.

The Jets’ power play, which was stuck in an early 1-for-11 rut, finally came to life late in the middle frame following a terrific pass from Blake Wheeler that found a wide-open Connor. He made no mistake, scoring for the third time in as many games, and the Jets were back within one.

Winnipeg Jets centre Nate Thompson hits Ottawa Senators defenceman Nikita Zaitsev during the first period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Cue the late-game dramatics, with Brossoit on the bench for an extra attacker. Defenceman Josh Morrissey, who had struggled all night as well, fired a shot from the point that Wheeler said he got a stick on. The goal was originally credited to Morrissey but later switched to Wheeler.

In overtime, Morrissey outletted the puck to Andrew Copp, who found a streaking Ehlers for the winner. It’s his first NHL overtime goal — at least officially.

“My first year here, an own goal against Colorado,” Ehlers dead-panned following the game. Ah yes, the Nov. 12, 2016 play in which his pass attempt went off Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson and gave the Avalanche a 3-2 victory. 

It may have taken more than four years, but Ehlers finally has a bit of redemption.

Brossoit finished with 38 saves, while Ottawa’s Matt Murray stopped 24 pucks. 

Winnipeg Jets defencemen Logan Stanley battles with Ottawa Senators centre Artem Anisimov during the second period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

This was the first of three straight games against the Senators, who showed they aren’t going to be an easy out. They’ve added some veteran pieces, such as Galchenyuk, Murray and Derek Stepan, to go with a solid young core. Ottawa is 1-1-1 after splitting an opening two-game series with Toronto.

Game 2 goes Thursday night at Canadian Tire Centre, while the third meeting is Saturday night at Bell MTS Place. The Jets and Senators will face each other a total of 10 times this season.

“I think those comeback wins, the late comeback wins, have a really nice impact on your team… You carry those for a number of games, you always feel that you have a chance,” said Maurice.

 

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler watches tips puck past Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray during the third period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers scores the game-winning goal on Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray during overtime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
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 Tuesday, January 19, 2021 10:38 PM CST: Adds photos

Updated on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 11:28 PM CST: Full write through.

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