Unheralded additions step up

Jets get depth scoring, timely saves in slim 3-2 win over Flames

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Derek Forbort and Trevor Lewis were two beneath-the-radar signings by Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff that wouldn’t have caused so much as a ripple across NHL waters this past off-season. Or, to be frank, on their own star-studded roster. 

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/02/2021 (674 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Derek Forbort and Trevor Lewis were two beneath-the-radar signings by Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff that wouldn’t have caused so much as a ripple across NHL waters this past off-season. Or, to be frank, on their own star-studded roster. 

But the small fish in the free agent pond made a big splash Tuesday night, leading their new club to an important 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames at Bell MTS Place.

Lewis, 34, opened the scoring with a short-handed snipe 6:40 into the game, while Forbort, 28, doubled the early lead just 30 seconds later with his first regular-season tally in nearly three years. The stay-at-home blue-liner then made a key play in his own end, swatting away an airborne puck in his own crease with the Jets clinging to a one-goal lead late in the third period. 

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets’ Trevor Lewis fights for position with Calgary Flames' Juuso Valimaki in front of goaltender David Rittich during the second period in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“I don’t know exactly where it was going to land, I just knew it wasn’t going to be in a good spot no matter what. It happens pretty quick and you kind of swat it to get it out of there. I felt like I was playing volleyball back in California,” joked Forbort, who began his NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings.

Lewis and Forbort were also major parts of a penalty killing unit that went four-for-four, and a Winnipeg team that was willing to pay the price in front of their net by blocking a whopping 24 Calgary shot attempts. The Jets snapped a two-game slide and improve to 6-3-1 on the year. Calgary falls to 4-4-1.

“Trevor Lewis has been a really, really good signing by Kevin. He’s had an impact. He’s an elite penalty killer. Short-handed goals are always really good because they’re tough on the other team and good for your team,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

“Forbort’s also kind of in that fabric of the room, where he’s a really good guy, a really good team guy. So those goals mean more. You’ve got Lewis and Forbort, they play hard minutes. The shot blockers, the penalty killers. Everybody wants to score goals, so when those two guys do it gives you a really good boost.”

Laurent Brossoit was the other big story, making 29 saves as he got a spot start in place of Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck. Sixteen of those came in a third period where the Jets were hanging on for dear life against a hard-charging Flames team.

Winnipeg Jets' Trevor Lewis celebrates his goal against the Calgary Flames with teammates on the bench during the first period on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade

Add it all up and it was just enough on a night Winnipeg’s biggest offensive weapons were mostly held in check, save for a Nikolaj Ehlers’ deflection later in the opening frame that proved to be the game-winner. Matthew Tkachuk had both of Calgary’s goals. 

It was a solid bounce-back result for the Jets after Monday night’s disappointing series-opener against the Flames, in which they blew a 2-0 lead and fell 4-3 in a shootout. The two teams will meet for a third straight time on Thursday night.

“It was huge. I thought tonight we played pretty well for all 60 minutes. You know they’re gonna get their chances because they have good offensive players, but when they did L.B. (Brossoit) was there and it was a big win for us,” said Lewis, the two-time Stanley Cup champion with Los Angeles who came to Winnipeg’s training camp on a professional tryout and ultimately inked a one-year, US$750,000 contract.

Maurice switched up two of his three defensive pairs before the game, moving Nathan Beaulieu up to play with a struggling Josh Morrissey, and moving Dylan DeMelo down to the third pair with rookie Logan Stanley. The one constant was the pairing of Forbort and Neal Pionk, a pair of Minnesotans who are good friends and off-season training partners.

They’ve easily been Winnipeg’s best duo through the first 10 games, and Forbort’s first-star effort Tuesday was terrific value for a guy who spent last season with the Flames and signed a one-year, US$1-million free agent deal with the Jets. 

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk tries to tip the puck Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit during the first period Tuesday.

“You got a big man and a puck mover. Both compete real hard. If you look at, and I don’t think this is necessarily part of your analytics, but if you look at kill plays, plays where one team has possession and the play gets stopped and you get possession back, and you measure that, Forbort and Pionk have really good numbers in that area,” said Maurice.

Lewis’s goal came after Mason Appleton stole a puck from Milan Lucic in Calgary’s end and fed him in the slot. Forbort’s came on a sizzling wrist shot after a pass from Pionk.

“That was a heck of a shot by Forbort. But they can do both. They can defend, they both compete real hard. They have chemistry. We changed the other two pairings and we like the result of that in the game. But they look like they’ve got something that they’re building on,” said Maurice.

After grabbing that 2-0 advantage, Tkachuk cut the deficit in half 35 seconds later when he redirected a beautiful Dillon Dube pass. But the Jets got it back at 13:32 of the first period when Ehlers got a stick on a DeMelo point shot for his team-leading sixth of the year. He didn’t get an assist, but Andrew Copp made a great play behind the Flames net to win a puck battle and regain possession for his team.

It’s the little things that add up. The Jets needed it, too, as they sat back on the lead in the third period, which grew slimmer when Tkachuk scored again at 10:53. But that’s as close as they would get, thanks to both Forbort and Brossoit’s efforts in the Winnipeg crease.

Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers celebrates his first period goal against the Calgary Flames Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade

Brossoit’s biggest save was his last, a sprawling stop on Johnny Gaudreau with just over a dozen seconds left on the clock.

“Right from the get-go I thought the energy was good. We stuck to our game, we stuck to the plan we wanted to have for 60 minutes. We didn’t have too many lulls. When they scored, we came back and scored again. Any time they got momentum, I thought we did a good job of getting it back. The penalty kill was big tonight and it was definitely a big win,” said Lewis.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Calgary Flames' Matthew Tkachuk, right, takes a couple of free shots at Winnipeg Jets’ Adam Lowry while Calgary's Sam Bennett ties him up in a post-whistle scrum during the third period.
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, February 2, 2021 11:09 PM CST: adds photo

Updated on Tuesday, February 2, 2021 11:36 PM CST: Adds more photos.

Updated on Tuesday, February 2, 2021 11:52 PM CST: Updates story, headline to final version.

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