Jets overcome slow start to top Coyotes 3-2


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TEMPE, Arizona – For a second straight game, the Winnipeg Jets managed to survive a slow start and a multi-goal deficit, en route to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena Friday night.

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TEMPE, Arizona – For a second straight game, the Winnipeg Jets managed to survive a slow start and a multi-goal deficit, en route to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena Friday night.

Trailing 2-0 late in the first period, the Jets started to claw their way back, making it a 2-1 game through 20 minutes after a goal from rookie Cole Perfetti. Following a scoreless second frame, Mark Scheifele evened the score with his team-leading sixth of the season.

That set the stage for a brief 3-on-3 overtime, as Blake Wheeler completed the comeback 32 seconds into the extra period, converting on a nice pass from Pierre-Luc Dubois on a 2-on-1. It’s the second straight game Winnipeg has had to come back from behind, after erasing a 3-1 lead by the Los Angeles Kings 24 hours earlier.

The Jets improve to 5-3-0 with the win, the Coyotes dropping to 2-5-0 with the loss.

Let’s take a closer look at the game with some news, notes and analysis from the win.

1) It was the first game ever to be played at the Coyotes new hockey home, Mullett Arena, the brand new 5,000-person facility that is being shared with the Arizona State Sun Devils. To call it a unique experience would be putting it lightly. Despite it being a black eye for the NHL, as this would never happen in any other major professional sports league, you certainly can’t argue with the view. It had a college-like feel, with marching bands, creative chants and, in some areas, bench seating. Not so great, at least for the Jets, is the temporary visitor’s dressing room, which was equipped with folding chairs and curtains for privacy. That’s supposed to change in four games, but the facility is expected to be used for the next five years.

“It’s different. The ground is cold. Being on top of the ice, if you take your shoes off, it’s a little chilly on the feet,” Perfetti said. “We know it’s temporary. We knew what we were coming into. It’s unique. It’s pretty cool to be the first time to ever be a part of this. It’s fun. It’s weird but it’s cool.”

2) It was another slow start for the Jets, who didn’t register their first shot of the game until the 7:22 mark. It took more than five minutes to hit the net against the L.A. Kings on Thursday. But it’s particularly troubling against a Coyotes team that isn’t hiding the fact they’re tanking for future first-overall pick Connor Bedard. It’s too early in the season to claim fatigue, even if it was the second of a back-to-back games, especially after how the team talked about how disappointing the start was against the Kings.

“We stuck with it. We played last night in L.A. and we knew those first periods are always tough,” Wheeler said. “The fact it was still a hockey game, and (David Rittich) made some big saves back there for us to keep us in it, and you leave those games on a back-to-back close or down a goal, you have a chance to win. That was mission accomplished.”

3) The Jets power play continues to be a work in progress. Winnipeg managed to get a pair of goals on the man-advantage against the Kings – though one was an empty-netter – which suggested they might be turning a corner. Well, if that was a step forward, then their effort against the Coyotes was two steps back. It’s never a great sign when the best chances come from the penalty killers, which was the case on this night, including not one, but two shorthanded breakaways. Jets assistant coach Brad Lauer, who runs the team’s power play, said before the game that he’d like to see more motion from his groups and generating more shots. Winnipeg finished 0-for-5, with just seven shots.

“I’m not going to stress on it too much. We’re getting some looks. I know I said that last night, but man oh man we’re getting some quality chances,” said Jets associate coach Scott Arniel. “We’ll still continue to tinker with things.”

3) David Rittich made his second start of the season in relief of Connor Hellebuyck, finishing the night with 19 saves. He made several key saves throughout the night, including the breakaways on the Coyotes’ power plays, as well as a pair of chances in close from Nick Bjugstad, among others. Rittich is now 1-1-0.

4) For a while there it looked like the Jets were going to get goalie’d, which wouldn’t have been all that surprising given who was between the pipes for the Coyotes. Vejmelka has been simply sensational against the Jets over his career. He entered the night having allowed just four goals on 138 shots across three games, for a .971 save percentage. He was spectacular once again, but the Jets managed to find a way to break the curse.

5) Clearly frustrated with an inability to generate offence, Arniel brought out the line blender late into the second period, swapping centres on his top two lines. Pierre-Luc Dubois was moved to a line with Kyle Connor and Mason Appleton, leaving Mark Scheifele to play with Blake Wheeler and Cole Perfetti. The move worked, as Scheifele got the equalizer. Arniel went back to the original lines for OT and it worked again. Kudos to the Jets associate coach, who continues to run the bench while Rick Bowness recovers from COVID-19.

“There was a little bit of frustration there. I know Kyle (Connor) was looking, he’s been trying hard to get a goal and just the way they were kind of matching up a little bit, we just felt there was some chemistry in the past with Scheifs and Wheels, and with Connor and Dubie,” said Arniel. “Just one of things where you try and work it and tonight was good.”

6) I wrote about Perfetti earlier this week and the young forward’s ongoing adjustment to the rigours of the NHL game. The 20-year-old is about as mature as they come for his age, and his skillset is evident. Perfetti cut the Coyotes lead to 2-1 in the first after Arizona opened the game with a pair of goals from Christian Fisher, with a goal that involved stripping Arizona defenceman Josh Brown near the corner before driving across the crease and beating Vejmelka with a slick move to the forehand. That’s only going to add to his growing confidence, which will be needed to elevate the Jets second line, alongside Dubois and Wheeler.

“Good play by Wheels to get it out, kind of later in the shift and was able to kind of poke it away from him there and then a little bit of a partial two-on-one and the defenceman took away Dubie on the backdoor so I just kind of took it to the net and was able to beat him far side,” Perfetti said. “That one felt pretty good. Obviously, we needed that bounce back after getting scored on. Followed that up 30 seconds later, that was big for us.”

UP NEXT: The Jets wrap up their three-game road trip in Vegas with a date against the Golden Knights Sunday night, before coming home for a three-game stretch, beginning with the Montreal Canadiens Thursday.

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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