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This article was published 1/11/2019 (488 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAN JOSE – The Winnipeg Jets pulled off a grand heist Friday night, snatching an improbable 3-2 victory from the jaws of the San Jose Sharks in a game where they were massively outplayed.
If this was a boxing match, it probably would have been stopped long before it ended. Instead, Nikolaj Ehlers scored the winner with just 1:24 left in the third period, one-timing a brilliant, no-look pass from linemate Jack Roslovic for his team-leading seventh of the season. The goal, seemingly out of nowhere after the Jets spent much of the game under siege, improved Winnipeg's record to 7-7-0.
The real story here was Connor Hellebuyck, who had one of the best games of his life. He made a career-high 51 saves on the night, including a massive one off San Jose defenceman Brent Burns with just a few seconds left on the clock to preserve the victory. Winnipeg put only 19 pucks at Martin Jones.
"I think they kind of punched themselves out," captain Blake Wheeler said of how his team snuck out of town with two points. "Third period we did a lot of standing around and watching them shoot it. I suppose that takes its toll on a team after a while. So we got a few O-zone shifts there at the end of the third. We’ve got some skill if we’ve got time and space, and we made a nice play."
San Jose drops to 4-9-1 after losing their fourth straight, and no doubt this one is really going to sting. After a relatively even first period in which shots were 11-6 for San Jose, the Sharks completely took over, outshooting Winnipeg 42-13 in the final 40 minutes. Final shot attempts were even more one-sided at 81-35.
"I'll definitely remember this one. This will definitely be a record for a while. I'm going to cherish this one and then move on. Definitely some of my best. I had one in the AHL where it was a 50-save shutout. That one's up there, too. But this one's definitely going to be up there," said Hellebuyck.
"There was a stretch there I was burning a little bit. But the guys allowed me to see things, and we scored three, so they did a good job, I did my job."
The incredible performance comes one game after he was pulled midway through the second period against Anaheim after giving up five goals on 19 shots in an eventual 7-4 loss.
"He has a history of having a night he didn’t like and coming back and being just about unbeatable. It’s probably the only story of the game. Those were traffic stops. There’s so much hard work that goes into doing what he did tonight, fighting to see pucks, moving when you’re on the ice and there’s nothing but legs and sticks flying. He was fantastic," said coach Paul Maurice, who described the game as "exceptionally atypical we hope."
"We wouldn’t want to see that too often. We’ll take the goaltending every night. San Jose was really good. Our goalie was really good. I almost feel like our goalie was so good, like I’ll be here tomorrow, I think you guys will too, I’ll answer all your questions about how horses--t we were tonight, tomorrow," he said.
"We should just talk about Connor Hellebuyck and you can beat me about the head and face tomorrow about the style of game we played."
Both teams were said to be desperate coming in, but you'd be hard-pressed to know it by the snooze-fest that was the opening 10 minutes. Unless you're a fan of multiple icings and missed passes, there wasn't a lot to get excited about.
But then Gabriel Bourque woke the Jets up, at least temporarily, firing a shot just under the crossbar at 13:34 of the period to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Winnipeg was in the middle of a not-yet-completed line change, and Bourque took advantage of being on the ice with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor, who stole the puck from Brent Burns and fed Bourque for the goal.
It's the first of the season for the veteran forward.
The Sharks came out with much more bite in the middle frame, and it quickly paid off. Barclay Goodrow scored 3:18 into the period as San Jose quickly broke the puck out of their own end and cashed in. Marc-Edouard Vlasic hit Jonny Brodzinski with a sweet stretch pass, and he chipped it up to Goodrow who one-timed it past Hellebuyck.
Then came the big turning point of the game.
With the Jets on their heels following the tying goal, old friend Evander Kane looked to have given the home team a 2-1 lead as he beat Hellebuyck on a rebound. But the goal was overturned on goaltender interference challenge, with replays showing Kevin Labanc making contact with Hellebuyck's pad right before Kane scored.
On the very next shift, Wheeler took a backhand pass from Mark Scheifele and beat Martin Jones to put the Jets out front. It's the fifth goal of the year for Wheeler, and the second in as many games following a six-game pointless streak.
"We caught a break there obviously. Those ones seem to go against us more than for us. So that was nice to win one of those challenges. Gives you a little bit of new life to go down 2-1, all of a sudden it’s a tie game and then you pop one after. It was a good little change of momentum for us," said Wheeler.
San Jose continued to come in waves, and Winnipeg can thank Hellebuyck for escaping the period with the lead intact. The Sharks outshot the Jets 28-9 in the period alone,
The third period started exactly how the second ended – with complete domination by San Jose. And with a delayed penalty coming to the Jets, Tomas Hertl tied it just 49 seconds into the frame.
It was all San Jose from that point on, save for the one shift late in the game where the Jets took advantage of some broken coverage and fired the game-winner.
"Jack Roslovic created that goal, and he needed to, because he was so bad through two and a half. But you know what, good for him. That’s important. Because you play 82 games and you’re going to have a night where you just can’t get it done and it’s not going for you. But he didn’t sulk, he didn’t sit on the bench. He went out, he and Nik Ehlers win us the game, along with our goaltender, after a real real tough night," said Maurice.
"I got a lot more faith in him, there’s a young man that’s going to stay in the game. He’s learned a really valuable lesson here, stay in the game, stay in the fight, because you truly can be the difference maker."
The road trip concludes Saturday night in Las Vegas as the Jets take on the Golden Knights. Hellebuyck is expected to get a well-deserved night off, with backup Laurent Brossoit getting the call. Winnipeg will also get a boost with the return of Adam Lowry to the lineup, as he has finished his two-game suspension. Patrik Laine could also be a possibility, after he missed a second straight game Friday with a minor lower-body injury.
"There’s a theory in hockey that you can tire the other team out in your own end. We employed that theory tonight," said Maurice. "We would have the expectation that we can play better tomorrow night."
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.