Morrissey saves the day

Nets OT winner after Jets blow three-goal lead late in game against Hurricanes

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The Winnipeg Jets survived an epic comeback from the Carolina Hurricanes — or was it their own epic collapse? — to pull out a wild 4-3 overtime victory on Monday night at Canada Life Centre.

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The Winnipeg Jets survived an epic comeback from the Carolina Hurricanes — or was it their own epic collapse? — to pull out a wild 4-3 overtime victory on Monday night at Canada Life Centre.

Up 3-0 with less than five minutes to play, it seemed Winnipeg was in full control against one of the best teams in the NHL. Incredibly, Carolina scored at 15:12, 16:52 and 19:21 of the third period, all with goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov pulled for an extra attacker, to pull even.

Stunned doesn’t even begin to describe the reaction on the Jets bench and in the downtown rink. To their credit, Winnipeg managed to regroup in time for the three-on-three skills session, with Josh Morrissey ending it on a breakaway.

FRED GREENSLADE / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Josh Morrissey scores the game-winning goal against Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov in overtime Monday night at Canada Life Centre.

“There was no panic on the bench,” said Jets coach Rick Bowness, whose team improves to 11-5-1.

“Sometimes in hockey, you shoot the puck, it gets deflected and goes in. We might have covered that thing perfectly, it still doesn’t mean it’s not going in the net. Sometimes it does. Just don’t panic. OK, we got a point here, let’s go here and make sure we get the extra point. However we got it, we got it. And that’s the most important thing.”

The Hurricanes fall to 10-5-4, salvaging a point in rather improbable fashion.

“Obviously not something that we want to give up,” said Morrissey. “I think, other than the last five minutes, we played a really good game. That’s a very good hockey team over there. Clearly, to give up three with their goalie out is an area that we’re going to have to improve on and clean up dramatically but we found a way to stick with it and get the two points.

Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a deep breath and break down everything that happened:

1 Poor David Rittich. Winnipeg’s backup goaltender, given a rather surprising start, had been perfect through the first 55-plus minutes, and it seemed like the only question is whether he’d get his first shutout of the year.

But Jaccob Slavin through traffic, Andrei Svechnikov on a perfect tip and Martin Necas, on what sure looked like a deflected puck, put that to bed in a hurry.

“It’s not for media what went through my mind. A lot of swear words,” is how Rittich described it after the game. “But we stick with that and get an important two points, which is most important.”

You can’t fault Rittich on any of the goals, and we should be seeing plenty more of him this year. Prior to the game, Bowness said he’d like to give Connor Hellebuyck a rest once a week, or every 10 days at most, to keep him as sharp as possible.

Rittich, who finished with 24 saves on 27 shots, has now won three straight starts after losing his debut in Vegas.

“I mean, that’s what we are talking about since camp, to be resilient, to work hard, to play 60 minutes, do right things at the right time, which we’re doing,” Rittich said of getting the win. “We just have to keep it going.”

2 How about Morrissey? Not only did he end it in overtime, thanks to a beautiful pass from Pierre-Luc Dubois, but he scored Winnipeg’s third goal, early in the third period, to give them what seemed like a commanding lead.

“He comes out pretty far. Nothing really on the scouting report but I just saw a hole and tried to shoot it,” Morrissey said of the game-winner. “Wasn’t going to get too fancy. Just tried to surprise him. Obviously super happy it went in.”

Morrissey is on track to obliterate career offensive highs. He leads the Jets in points with 18 (three goals, 15 assists) in 17 games. A big part of that is the new systems Bowness has put in place, which the veteran coach figured would benefit Morrissey.

“When Josh and I were talking over the summer, I mentioned to him I remember coming in here with Dallas and coaching against you, and part of our pre-game was focused on Josh Morrissey. Because he was their best defenceman. We talked about that, and that’s what I said we need from you,” said Bowness.

“You’ve got the green light, I want you a lot more involved with the offence. I want you skating. At the end of the season, and this is what I told him, when there’s a discussion of who the top 10 D are for the Norris Trophy voting, I want to see his name in there. And he’s taken great pride in that.”

3 Not to be lost in the zaniness of this one was the first NHL goal from Mikey Eyssimont. Playing in just his fifth NHL game (and fourth this year), Eyssimont followed up on a David Gustafsson breakaway that had been stopped by Kochetkov and swept in the rebound early in the second period to give Winnipeg a 2-0 lead.

“I’ve visualized it for my whole life, so to finally get it, you never know how it’s going to happen. You’ve just got to be opportunistic, I guess,” said Eyssimont. “To have the boys come over and celebrate with (me) and have all of the guys congratulating me, that means the most. It’s the best day of my life, for sure.”

Jansen Harkins drew the other helper, meaning all three recent members of the Manitoba Moose, now skating on the big club’s fourth line, came together for the big goal.

“We’ve put up numbers in the AHL together, me and Gus and me and Harks. It happened, it feels good,” said Eyssimont.

With three top-nine forwards in Nikolaj Ehlers, Morgan Barron and Mason Appleton all out with long-term injuries, the depth scoring was a welcome sight for Bowness.

“We were talking before the game that we need to start getting goals from our bottom six. I told the staff before the game. We need a goal from that bottom six, they haven’t scored in a while. So it was great to see him score,” said Bowness.

“Give him credit. That’s him. He saw the opportunity to get up. He’s a scrappy little guy, he’s fearless. As we mentioned before, he’s on the forecheck, he’s not the biggest guy, he’s not the fastest guy, but he’s in there and he’s effective — he does the job we need him to do. I was happy he got a reward.”

4 Dubois had another productive night at the office, as he opened the scoring late in the first period for Winnipeg and chipped in with two assists. Blake Wheeler also had a pair of helpers. Linemate Cole Perfetti also had an assist.

Dominic Toninato was Winnipeg’s lone healthy scratch at forward, while defenceman Kyle Capobianco took a seat in the press box as Ville Heinola made his 2022-23 regular-season debut, skating on the third pairing with Dylan Samberg.

Dylan DeMelo missed a second straight game with an upper-body injury.

Winnipeg’s power play went 0-for-3, including an extended 5-on-3 in the second period. Carolina went 0-for-2 with the man advantage, although they did score the three goals while at 6-on-5.

Up next: Winnipeg opens a three-game road trip on Wednesday night in St. Paul against the Minnesota Wild. Stops in Dallas (Friday) and Chicago (Sunday) will follow.

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.

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