Jets working OT to perfection

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It was only fitting the Winnipeg Jets, playing in La Belle Province for the first time this season, were carried by its Quebec Connection.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/03/2021 (635 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was only fitting the Winnipeg Jets, playing in La Belle Province for the first time this season, were carried by its Quebec Connection.

In a game that certainly pulled at the heart strings of nervous fans, especially after a third period breakdown by the Jets that sent things to extra time, it was the Jets’ three players that grew up in or around the surrounding area that would ultimately clear the way.

The final dagger was provided by Pierre-Luc Dubois, a native of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Que., who scored with 31 seconds remaining in overtime to seal a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre Thursday night.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen reacts to a goal by Winnipeg Jets' Paul Stastny, left, during first period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Thursday, March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

“It’s a special place to play. I have a lot of friends and family that watched the game and after when I come back to my phone, I’d say 75 per cent are happy and the other 25 per cent’s happy for me but they’re Montreal Canadiens fans so not so happy with the outcome of the game,” Dubois said after the game. “With fans and with my friends and family here it’s going to be more special but just to get two points in any arena against any team is big, especially at this point in the season.”

With the win, the Jets now have victories in two straight games — and six in their last seven — to improve to 15-7-1. That keeps Winnipeg in second place in the Canadian division, three points up on Edmonton, with two games still in hand.

The Canadiens, who were coming off their first victory — a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night — under interim head coach Dominique Ducharme, dropped to 10-6-6 with the loss. Ducharme’s first two games as coach were against the Jets last week, both of which ended in defeat.

Winnipeg once again went with mostly a three-forward format in the 3-on-3 overtime and is now a perfect 5-0 when playing in extra time. With just seconds remaining on the clock, Nikolaj Ehlers gained Montreal’s zone and took full advantage of a defensive mishap by the Canadiens; two Montreal players collided near the net, creating a clear lane to Dubois in the slot. Dubois took the pass and then ripped a high shot past Montreal net minder Jake Allen for his fifth of the season.

“We’ve got fast and skilled guys that can take it from one end to the other and score a goal. You see it on the winning goal. It’s just a great overall play by that line,” Paul Stastny said.

“We kind of criss-crossed them, they ran into each other and so a nothing play turned into a mini break for (Ehlers) there and he made a good play faking the shot and finding (Dubois) in the slot.”

Stastny sure is enjoying life with his new line mates. And that turned out to be bad news for the Canadiens.

Playing his second straight game on the left wing with centre Mark Scheifele and captain Blake Wheeler, the native of Quebec City scored twice to push his total to five on the year. Stastny opened the scoring at the 10:39 mark of the first period, redirecting a pass from the corner by Wheeler with his skate.

He then added his second goal early in the third period when he skated out of the corner undefended before beating Allen short side, over his shoulder. Stastny now has four goals in four games; Scheifele and Wheeler each finished with one assist.

“Everybody wants to play with him because he’s so smart. And the plays that he makes, the small area plays that he makes, everybody appreciates,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said of Stastny. “We all understand the small, really gifted things that he does but you want to score goals, man, in this league and he did that and there’s lots of people trying to get him the puck late in the third (for the hat trick).”

Rounding out the scoring for the Jets was Mathieu Perreault, another Quebec native. Perreault, who grew up in Drummondville, gave the Jets a 2-0 first-period lead with his fifth goal of the season, and second in as many games. Perreault pounced on a giveaway by Tyler Toffoli before driving the net and beating Allen with a deke to the backhand.

“I always come to the rink and play hockey as hard as I can. I’ve always done that. I’ve never worried about anything else outside of that. And this year it’s one of those years, Paul is giving me a lot of confidence, he’s playing me good minutes,” Perreault said. “So I’m just going to try and ride it. And the team’s winning games, so couldn’t be any happier.”

Perreault’s goal put an exclamation mark on a strong first period for the Jets. But none of that momentum seemed to continue into the second frame.

A sloppy 20-minute effort resulted in the Canadiens evening the scored. Brendan Gallagher struck first, banging home a puck near the midway mark of the frame to cut the Jets lead to one. Then Toffoli scored off his skate to tie the game, adding to his team leading 14th goal of the season.

Stastny stole some of the rhythm back for the Jets when he scored just minutes into the third period. But just as the Jets seemed destined to wrap things up in regulation, Corey Perry buried a shot with 1:24 remaining, sending the game to overtime.

Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck stood tall in the extra period, including stopping back-to-back shots in close by Gallagher and then another by Paul Bryon. Hellebuyck finished the game with 33 saves to earn his 11th win of the season.

“Our game has been pretty darned consistent in some areas. Puck support, our neutral zone defence has been good… We’re creating things in the offensive zone. And then we faltered, right? We did a bunch of things in the second period that were counteracting the idea,” Maurice said. “So it’s really important that we deal with that tomorrow. But I would caution against the idea that if you just play your game, we should have beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-0 on their ice. That’s just not realistic.”

The Jets continue their current five-game road trip with another game against the Canadiens Saturday night, before wrapping things up with three straight games in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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