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This article was published 14/11/2017 (217 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Another drowsy start by the Winnipeg Jets, another marvellous performance by their goaltender until his teammates were roused from their snooze, another strong display of balanced scoring and another well-earned two points at the expense of the sad-sack Arizona Coyotes.
The Jets sputtered out of the gate but opened the throttle in the second period and cruised to a 4-1 victory over the visiting Coyotes in NHL action at Bell MTS Place Tuesday night.
The result was not unlike Saturday’s battle between the clubs in Glendale, Ariz.
That night, goalie Steve Mason’s stellar play in the early going, along with a picture-perfect penalty kill, propelled the Jets to an identical 4-1 triumph. In the rematch, Connor Hellebuyck protected the crease with a similar resolve, while Arizona was shut out on five man-advantage chances.
Hellebuyck was sensational in his return to the crease for the Jets (10-4-3). Pulled last week in a road defeat against the Las Vegas Golden Knights, Hellebuyck made 13 first-period saves to bail out his club and stymied struggling Arizona (2-15-3) with 33 stops in all.
Winnipeg centre Adam Lowry, who scored his second goal of the season, said Hellebuyck’s strong effort was timely, as the club served three minor penalties in the opening frame.
"We killed off the first three penalties. Bucky’s a big reason for that. He made some big saves and allowed us to get our legs under us," said Lowry. "You’re able to get that go-ahead goal and you get out of the period with a 1-0 lead. It gives you a lot of confidence going out for the second period."
Winnipeg, second in the Central Division and third in the Western Conference, has prevailed in six of its last eight games and 10 of its last 15, and has gained points in all but four of 17 games this season.
In a listless opening period, defencemen Tyler Myers, Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba took blatant penalties in the defensive zone, none of which was particularly necessary. But Hellebuyck was the club’s best penalty killer, bailing out the club with a series of quality saves.
Hellebuyck said he was solely focused on providing a bounce-back performance after getting replaced in his last start in Vegas by Mason.
"This was definitely my redemption game. Any time you get pulled you have to enter strong, and I’m glad the guys played well in front of me," he said.
Hellebuyck said he had to deal with some difficult situations, but not many.
"That goes back to being in the right spots. Guys are blocking shots when they need to and keeping (opposing shooters) to the outside," he said. "And if they don’t, that’s what I’m there for. It’s a great team effort."
Desperate for a spark, the Jets got an honest-to-goodness hockey play from Andrew Copp on the game’s opening goal at 15:30 of the first period when he burst from the corner, spun in front, tried to stuff the puck past goalie Antti Raanta and then coolly flipped in his own rebound.
Joel Armia, Lowry and Bryan Little, on a breakaway to snap a personal 11-game scoring drought, had the other goals for the Jets, all in the second period. The team’s big line of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor was held pointless.
"I think (secondary scoring) is what we need. We can’t always rely on Scheifele’s line to do the heavy work. There’s going to be games where they’re going to be off or not get on the scoresheet," said Little. "It’s up to the other lines to chip in. Especially (when) you look at playoff teams and they got their second, third and fourth line chipping in on goals, that’s what you need to keep winning all season."
Hellebuyck couldn’t find a long shot through traffic by defenceman Alex Goligoski just more than five minutes into the final period, the only goal by the visitors.
The Coyotes had other opportunities but couldn’t solve the 24-year-old from Commerce, Mich., who has solidified his place as the squad’s No. 1 netminder. He sprawled to get a toe out and stop a shot from Brad Richardson, followed up with a flashy glove save off Derek Stepan, who had slipped between Dmitry Kulikov and Myers, and then stymied Tobias Rieder from in tight.
Raanta, who was pulled after the Little tally, and his replacement, Scott Wedgewood, combined for 26 stops.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice said Hellebuyck’s ability to rebound from a tough outing shows he’s maturing as an NHL goalie who thrives on a heavy workload.
"He’s played very well at the start of the year. He had a tougher night there in Vegas, but it was the first time that he probably got off the ice and didn’t like his performance," said Maurice. "So, he comes right back and settles in. That’s mentally important for him."
"Confidence. If you’ve got enough of a foundation in your game... goalies will always have those kind of games like he had in Vegas. The more confidence you have in that foundation, the easier it is to find it after a tough night," said the coach
The Jets continue a three-game stretch at home Thursday night when the Philadelphia Flyers pay a visit. On Saturday afternoon, Winnipeg hosts the New Jersey Devils.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 11:17 PM CST: Full write through
11:37 PM: updates headline
November 15, 2017 at 7:43 AM: Updated