Jets rally in the third period to beat Blues 4-2
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
For the better part of Monday night it felt as if the Winnipeg Jets were digging themselves a deeper hole, destined to add another loss to what’s been the roughest week so far in their 82-game schedule.
Then came the final 20 minutes, with the Jets finding their scoring touch and mounting a seemingly unlikely comeback, ending the night with a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues at Canada Life Centre.
Trailing 2-0 early in the third period following goals from Jake Neighbours and Nikita Alexandrov, the Jets exploded for four of their own. Josh Morrissey scored twice and Mark Scheifele also added a pair, including an empty-netter to seal the win.
With the victory, the Jets improved to 32-19-1 and snapped a three-game losing streak. The win also moved Winnipeg to within two points of the Dallas Stars for first place in the Central Division and Western Conference, with the Stars having one game in hand.
The Blues continued their free fall, dropping to 23-25-3 with the loss, which was their fifth straight defeat. St. Louis looks more and more like it will be sellers come March’s NHL trade deadline, eight points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wildcard playoff spot, with the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators also ahead of them, all of whom have games in hand.
Connor Hellebuyck made 24 saves in the win, earning his second victory in seven starts and first in his last four. Jordan Binnington was solid between the pipes until the third period, turning aside 34 of 37 shots in the losing effort.
Let’s dig a little deeper into this one…
1) Unhappy with his club’s effort of late, and with the hope of creating an offensive spark, Jets coach Rick Bowness shuffled his forward lines prior to puck drop, making changes to all four trios. The Jets entered the game having scored two or fewer goals in six of their last eight games.
The top line consisted of Scheifele between wingers Kyle Connor and Karson Kuhlman; Pierre-Luc Dubois centring a second line with Morgan Barron and Saku Maenalanen; a third line made up of Adam Lowry between Cole Perfetti and Blake Wheeler; and a fourth trio of Kevin Stenlund, Nikolaj Ehlers and Sam Gagner.
Through 40 minutes, despite the Jets firing plenty of shots on net and generating a handful of quality scoring opportunities, it looked to be another fruitless effort. Then they got rolling in the third.
Morrissey got the run started, scoring just 40 seconds after Alexandrov beat Hellebuyck short-side on a breakaway just minutes into the third period to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Morrissey fired a shot over the glove of Binnington for his ninth goal of the season and first in 10 games, then gave a passionate celebration that seemed to resonate with everyone in the building, from the players to the fans in the stands, providing a major injection of energy.
The Jets would take the lead minutes later on a pair of goals separated by just 21 seconds.
Scheifele, playing on a line with Connor and Ehlers, scored his 30th of the season to tie it, followed by another goal from Morrissey, who fired a pass in front, only for the puck to ricochet off the leg of Blues forward Brayden Schenn and into the back of the net. Scheifele capped the night off by firing the puck into an empty cage.
2) Bowness had called out his top players following a 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night.
While he didn’t use names, it was clear he was talking about the likes of Scheifele, Connor, Ehlers, Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois. While not every name mentioned hit the scoresheet, most of them did and all put in solid efforts.
Scheifele (2G) and Connor (2A) each had multi-point nights, while Ehlers and Wheeler each chipped in an assist. Dubois finished without a point, but played a strong 200-foot game, with the group combining to be a plus-7.
The Jets also got a strong effort from Maenalanen, who had a pair of assists for his second multi-point game of the season and first since scoring twice in a 7-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks back on Nov. 27. Morgan Barron and Neal Pionk also picked up an assist to round out the scoring.
3) A strong performance on special teams can often mask less-than-stellar play at even-strength. But when your power play and penalty kill aren’t running at optimal levels, it can magnify struggles at 5-on-5.
The Jets penalty kill has been mostly consistent this year, ranked third in the NHL heading into Monday’s action. But it has dipped in recent weeks and was once again vulnerable against the Blues.
St. Louis scored once on two trips to the power-play, with Neighbours opening the scoring at the 14:36 mark of the second period with his fourth of the season. Neighbours was sprung for a breakaway following a nice pass from Blues defender Torey Krug, with Neighbours capping off the play with a nice deke to the backhand that fooled Hellebuyck.
Winnipeg’s power play, however, remains a work in progress. The Jets finished the night with 12 minutes on the PP, going 0-for-6. They generated a total of eight shots, including two while on a 5-on-3 for 25 seconds.
They had just one shot on a four-minute power play in the first period, which seemed to take away momentum in the early going. The attack got better as the night went on, but was still unable to find paydirt, agasint a Blues PK that ranked 23rd in the NHL and 26th when on the road.
The Jets are now 0-for-20 on the power play over the last five games.
4) A week ago, the Jets were looking down on their competition, sitting atop the Central and the West. While Monday’s win was a step in the right direction, Winnipeg’s dismal stretch of hockey in recent weeks now has them checking over their shoulders.
The Jets are still in a good place, second in the Central behind the Dallas Stars, but there’s definitely a few teams on their heels.
The Minnesota Wild (27-17-4) have won their last two games and are now seven points back of the Jets with four games in hand. The surging Colorado Avalanche (27-18-3) have also been making hay of late, with wins in seven of their last eight games, putting them eight points behind Winnipeg, also with four fewer games played.
The Jets have talked at length about their busy schedule the last two months – they had 16 games in 30 days in December, followed by 15 games in 29 days this month – including a busy road schedule over the last couple of weeks. They’re now off for an 11-day break as the NHL puts on their annual all-star weekend.
That time away from the rink should go a long way in helping alleviate some of the built-up fatigue. Winnipeg returns to action for a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 11.
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.
Updated on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 12:22 AM CST: FInal write through
Updated on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 7:14 AM CST: Fixes typo
Updated on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 8:59 AM CST: Corrects typo