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This article was published 29/1/2019 (199 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BOSTON — Call it a scrappy victory — literally — Tuesday night for the Winnipeg Jets, who used their fists for good and for evil at always-boisterous TD Garden.
Dominated through the better part of two periods, the Jets got a hefty dose of energy after a couple of fights in the middle frame. Speedy forward Kyle Connor scored two pretty goals 34 seconds apart — his 20th and 21st of the season — in the third period and supplied the only goal of the shootout as the visitors earned a 4-3 triumph over the Boston Bruins.
The Jets (32-16-2) avoided a third straight defeat — the first coming in Dallas before the team’s league-mandated week off and the second coming Monday night in Philadelphia. Winnipeg hasn’t suffered three consecutive losses in regulation (during the regular season) since early March 2017.
Winnipeg heads home to host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
This one meant more than just a couple of points in the standings, although it vaulted Winnipeg two ahead of the Nashville Predators atop the Central Division standings, with a pair of games still in hand.
It returned some mojo to a squad that looked collectively demoralized just 24 hours earlier in Flyers country.
"I think it allows us to breath, sit back and realize we’re better than what we’re thinking right now," said Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who was exceptional from start to finish, including a brilliant toe save on Bruins’ leading scorer David Pastrnak in the shootout to help secure the extra point. "We get some confidence and continue grinding and building our game."
Hellebuyck stopped 36 shots through regulation time and the three-on-three overtime session, and then stopped Jake DeBrusk, Pastrnak and Brad Marchand in the shootout.
Connor made a slick move on Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak to score the only goal in the skills competition, and then his own netminder did the rest of the work.
"Yeah, I had a couple of lucky ones but the team played good in front of me, kept things to the outside. I thought that was a good team effort," said Hellebuyck. "I had a nice big toe there (on Pastrnak). You have to beat all of me."
For a couple of squads in opposite conferences that rarely square off, the fury was cranked up late in a scoreless second period.
Jets centre Adam Lowry disapproved of a clean but punishing hit on linemate Brandon Tanev, so he challenged Kevan Miller near the Boston blue line. Minutes later, Tanev got into a fight with Trent Frederic, who was making his NHL debut. The Boston centre won a unanimous decision over his undersized opponent, although Tanev got in a few late licks.
That energized Winnipeg’s bench and the squad came out firing in the third. Connor scooted on a breakaway after a fine pass from defenceman Tyler Myers and beat Boston goalie Halak at 4:27 of the final frame, and then scored again at 5:01 on a great play orchestrated by linemates Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.
"I think the game absolutely turned on those fights and everybody’s level got up," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "It’s all about a certain emotional level. (The Bruins) were feeling their game and we were starting to wade back into the second period. You see more fighting when there’s a higher level of emotion. Now there’s not as much as there used to be, but the emotion got high and that gave us a chance to get back in the game.
"We came in dragging a little bit and (the Bruins) were hot in that first period. (Hellebuyck) was great, gave us a chance to come back and we found a way to fight back. I was really happy with that. Shootout wins usually aren’t very exciting for me but really pleased with that response."
The Jets’ top line had fits trying to neutralize the Bruins’ all-world trio of Patrice Bergeron, Pastrnak and Marchand for two-thirds of the game but found its legs and took over in the final period.
"We were able to connect a couple times. For the most part I think our line kept our speed coming into the zone, we didn’t stop looking for too much, we spent a good amount of time in there zone," said Wheeler. "That’s a hell of a line we were playing against all night. I think that’s a pretty good night for us to score a couple of big goals."
None of Wheeler, Scheifele and Connor had impactful performances in a 3-1 defeat to the Flyers a night earlier, but demonstrated a will to lead against a Bruins squad constructed to grate opponents into submission.
"(Boston) got off to a good start and we know they’re a good home team but I thought we really started to get our legs under us in the second and started playing quick and getting on pucks and supporting each other," said Connor.
"It’s always tough coming off a break, no matter how much you put into it to stay in shape. Nothing’s like game shape, so it was good to go right back into a game (Tuesday). As the game went on, we started to get our legs under us and we just got back to the way we play hockey."
Which is not unlike how Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy’s squad prefers to operate. The Bruins hounded the Jets through the earlier going and launched a barrage of shots at Hellebuyck, beating him twice for a 2-1 lead after the first period.
"We’re built the same way. They’ve got some big bodies, we’ve got some big bodies. They play really fast, we play really fast. You know, that’s a heck of a team over there. We tried to give them all they could handle tonight and it was good enough to get two (points)," said Wheeler.
Hellebuyck faced 20 shots through 20 minutes, including a half-dozen that required some acrobatics on his part. He was sharp after being a spectator Monday in Philly while his creasemate, Laurent Brossoit, suffered just his second loss of the season.
"(Hellebuyck) was great. He was the one rested guy we had in the lineup in a lot of ways," said Maurice. "He got a good day’s work and got back into his rhythm. You get out on the road some nights, back-to back, sometimes it’s really nice to have your No. 1 go in the two-hole, come in for the second half. You’re gonna need that. We needed good goaltending to be in the game after the first (period) and boy, we got it."
Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey scored on the power play in the first period, his sixth goal of the season.
The Bruins (27-17-6), who hold down the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, were coming off their bye week but showed no early signs of rust.
Bergeron, a perennial Selke Trophy candidate, had a two-goal game, while Pastrnak had a goal and a pair of helpers. Marchand finished with three assists.
Bergeron opened the scoring at 9:49 as the line of centre Bryan Little, Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic was in scramble mode. The unit struggled mightily in Philadelphia on Monday and wasn’t much better in Beantown. Laine was used sparingly, registering no shots in 10:55 of ice time.
The Bruins, down 3-2 in the third, celebrated what they perceived to be the equalizer during a scramble in the crease. The play was reviewed and a ruling of ‘no goal’ was delivered.
"Well, first it was on my blocker, then got wedged under my skate. They’re not allowed to push me into the net. They really should have blown it 15 seconds before they did," said Hellebuyck.
He had a great view of Connor’s consecutive tallies.
"It’s a huge momentum shift, and then in my brain I’m allowed to sit back and say, ‘OK, we’ve got the lead. Now, let’s hold it.’ It’s more fun to play like that."
Great in theory, however, Bergeron finally tied it with his 16th with just more than eight minutes remaining in regulation time, forcing OT.
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, January 29, 2019 at 9:50 PM CST: Adds photo
9:53 PM: Updates headline
11:22 PM: Full write through