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This article was published 23/12/2014 (2055 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CHICAGO — Beating the Blackhawks in Chicago has been just about impossible this season except for teams named the Winnipeg Jets.
The Hawks have lost just four games on home ice this season and had won eight in a row at the United Center prior to Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Jets. Winnipeg has now beaten Chicago twice this season on the Hawks’ home ice.
A first-period explosion saw the Jets jump out to a 3-0 lead, and they added another early in the second frame for a four-goal edge. Mathieu Perreault scored his seventh and eighth goals of the season, Bryan Little potted his 13th and Anthony Peluso notched his first.
The Jets, who blew a 3-1 lead in the third period on Sunday night to the Philadelphia Flyers, then withstood a barrage from the Hawks for a good portion of the game’s final 30 minutes but didn’t wilt.
Rookie Michael Hutchinson was brilliant, stopping 38 of 39 saves for the win, and Blake Wheeler added an empty-net goal, his 10th goal of the season.
Hutchinson was also in net for a shutout over the Hawks on Nov. 2, stopping 33 shots in a 1-0 win for the Jets.
‘There were some strange scores around the league on the last night before Christmas. But, more importantly, the things we want to be good at were good and they worked’ ‐ Jets coach Paul Maurice
The Jets will now go into Christmas with an 18-10-7 mark for 43 points and owners of a wild-card berth.
Winnipeg, however, will have to continue its strong play against strong opposition in the second half of the season if they hope to hold their playoff position.
The Jets are now 8-7-3 against Western Conference opponents and 6-9-4 against teams with records of .500 are better. Winnipeg has done a great job against sub-.500 teams, going 12-1-3, but they’ll play 32 of their 47 games against teams with records above the .500 mark.
Jets coach Paul Maurice was asked prior to the game if the Jets would use the game against the Hawks as a measuring stick.
"OK, we’ll take that. We have our challenges, they have theirs. We’re below them in the standings, they’ve proven they come out and play every night. We have our things we need work around, But sure, why wouldn’t we?" said Maurice.
Safe to say the Jets, on this night at least, measured up and more, but Maurice was cautious with is words following the game.
"There were some strange scores around the league on the last night before Christmas," said Maurice, careful not to sound boastful about his team. "But, more importantly, the things we want to be good at were good and they worked. Our gap was good. They’re a good team. They make opportunities even they don’t have much. But we can use that game plan as a template against the best teams and feel like we can generate and not feel like we’re taking all night."
The Jets are now 14-5-4 when they score first and 10-3-3 when they lead after the first period. Maurice stepped off the ice Tuesday morning saying, "I liked Wheeler, Ladd and Little’s skate this morning. They went after it a bit. They let the rest of the team know Christmas break hasn’t started yet."
The message was clear as the Jets came out hard early and never really let the Hawks into the game.
Perreault now has points in eight straight games and 11 points in 10 games (6-5-11). The line of Perreault, Michael Frolik and Mark Scheifele has been hot of late, and Scheifele also picked up an assist and has nine points (3-6-9) in the last six games.
Hungry, hungry Hutch
Hutchinson is now 8-2-2 and owns a league-leading save percentage of .944. Head coach Paul Maurice has been going with a straight rotation for 12 games now going back and forth between Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec and the rookie’s win total and statistics have been increasingly better than his crease-mate. Maurice has been steadfast in his assertion both goalies deserve to play, but Hutchinson’s case for a little more work continues to get stronger.
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Updated on Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 8:19 PM CST: Updates score
9:14 PM: Updates score
10:06 PM: Updates score, adds slideshow
10:31 PM: AP write-thru
11:04 PM: Local write-thru
11:39 PM: Corrects misspelled name
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