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Jets back on track with ‘W’ in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It took a little bit to get their engines running at full speed, but the Winnipeg Jets eventually got back on track, earning a convincing 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre Saturday night.

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OTTAWA — It took a little bit to get their engines running at full speed, but the Winnipeg Jets eventually got back on track, earning a convincing 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre Saturday night.

The victory put one back in the win column, snapping a two-game losing skid that kicked off Winnipeg’s current season-long, five-game road trip, which saw 4-1 losses to the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. Against the Senators, the Jets battled to a 1-1 tie through the first period before scoring twice in the second and adding two more in the final 20 minutes.

Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele (two), Blake Wheeler and Cole Perfetti scored for the Jets and Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 25 of 26 shots. Josh Norris scored the lone goal for the Senators, while Anton Forsberg made 25 saves in the losing effort.

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ottawa Senators left wing Tim Stutzle (18) skates the puck out of the corner on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during second period NHL hockey action in Ottawa on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023.

“Our PK was great, our power play produced, and we were good five-on-five. That’s a good recipe,” said Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey. “They play hard, they play a physical game. We didn’t back down and we took the play to them for a lot of the game.”

The win improved the Jets to 30-16-1 on the season. They had opened the trip atop the Central Division and Western Conference but dipped out of both spots following the loss to Toronto Thursday; with 61 points, the Jets are second behind the Dallas Stars, who have a game in hand, for top spot in the West.

Let’s dig a little deeper into this one…

1) If anything has been working for the Jets this road trip it’s special teams.

Winnipeg opened the scoring on the power play 6:30 into the game, with Ehlers potting his fourth of the season that began with a cross-ice pass from Morrissey. Perfetti also scored on the man-advantage, with the Jets finishing 2-for-8 while up a man.

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor (81) takes a shot past Ottawa Senators defenceman Thomas Chabot (72) during the first period.

The Jets have scored a power-play goal in each of their last five games, including one in all three games on the current roadie. Speaking of Morrissey, he has the primary assist on five of the Jets’ last eight power-play markers.

“Scotty (Arniel) works hard with the penalty killers and Brad Lauer has been working very hard with the power play,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “With the skill level we have out there — and they move the puck like that — they’re tough to defend. It’s been successful and we’ve got to keep working at it.”

2) Through the Jets’ recent stretch of inconsistent play before Saturday, what’s remained stable has been the penalty kill. The PK finished perfect on the night, killing off all four of the Senators’ trips on the man-advantage.

That might not seem like a big deal against the Senators given where they are in the standings. But Ottawa has been lethal on the power play this season, entering the game ranked third in the NHL with a success rate of 27.4 per cent.

“It’s big. Our penalty kill’s been great all year,” said Scheifele. “A lot of big shot blocks. Saku (Maenalanen) had a big one, (Dylan) Samberg had a big one. A lot of character guys putting their body on the line.”

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets centre Adam Lowry (17) fights Ottawa Senators centre Mark Kastelic (47) during the third period.

In the last three games, Winnipeg’s PK has gone eight-for-eight, improving on their second-ranked unit. The PK is now clicking at 84.9 per cent, behind only the Boston Bruins (87.0).

3) As good as the special teams were, the Jets needed to find their 5-on-5 game. In the losses against the Canadiens and Leafs, both goals were scored on the power play, with the Jets getting outplayed while at even-strength.

Winnipeg scored three times against the Senators playing 5-on-5, including both of Scheifele’s goals, as well as the one by Wheeler. Those markers came over a span of 8:09 in the second period and put the Jets up 3-1, giving them all the momentum heading into the third.

It was also a positive sign to see the Jets’ best players be the difference in this one. Scheifele, Ehlers, Wheeler, Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois combined for 10 points and were a plus-8. Against the Leafs, the same group was a minus-14.

“We challenged them this morning because we needed a little bit more out of them,” said Bowness. “They responded, all of them. I’m very happy with all of them today.”

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk (7) and Winnipeg Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon (5) get tangled up during the second period.

4) Hellebuyck has garnered some slack for his play of late, after posting back-to-back games with a save percentage below .900. Such is life for a goalie, a position that often takes a disproportionate amount of criticism when a team is losing.

Hellebuyck was a wall throughout the game, with Norris’ goal coming late in the second period on a quick shot off an offensive-zone draw for the Senators. The goal came on the faceoff following a flurry of shots in front, which could have easily ended up in the back of the net if not for a great effort by the Jets netminder.

While Hellebuyck got plenty of run support, he kept the Jets in a comfortable position while up 3-1, turning aside several quality chances. Norris had a few good looks, including a breakaway, and Hellebuyck stood tall on the PK, stopping all four shots he faced.

“You watch some of those saves, they’re timely saves. He made some big ones,” said Bowness. “I love his attitude, his enthusiasm. He’s a great goalie and a great competitor, but I love his attitude. He comes to the rink every day and he enjoys it and he works his butt off and he’s just a great kid to be around.”

The Jets will go with backup David Rittich against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight. The Flyers (20-20-7) have struggled this season under new head coach John Tortorella, but have found their groove of late, winning nine of their last 12 games. They’ll also be a tired group, having played Saturday — a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ottawa Senators goaltender Anton Forsberg (31) watches teammate Travis Hamonic (23) move the puck away from his net as they take on the Winnipeg Jets during the first period.

Jeff.Hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets players celebrate their 5-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

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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