Record: 52 – 20 – 10
CHICAGO — The Winnipeg Jets left Chicago feeling a little empty on Friday night.
A solid road effort was there, they generated some scoring chances and limited the NHL’s most active marksmen to a reasonable amount of shots on goal.
But the Blackhawks earned two key points against their Central Division rivals, riding the superior goaltending of journeyman Jeff Glass and his 31-save effort to a 2-1 triumph over the Jets at United Center.
Glass slid across to make a ridiculous pad save off Patrik Laine with a minute left in regulation time to preserve the victory. If that wasn’t enough, captain Blake Wheeler hit a post with less than 20 ticks to go and the Jets’ net empty.
"It was a s—- loss. We battled well in the third, we never gave up. We had some huge scoring chances, including myself, but just couldn’t capitalize," said Laine, who took over the team goal-scoring lead with his 20th at 16:19 to pull the visitors to within one.
"Their speed, they have so much skill up front and they have so much veteran guys in their lineup, so it’s hard to play against. But we have to find some ways to beat them because we’re gonna get these kinds of games against Chicago again this season."
The Blackhawks (22-16-6) have the Jets’ number so far this season. On Dec. 14, they stormed out to a three-goal lead in the first period and dumped the Jets 5-1 in Winnipeg.
Rookie centre David Kampf and defenceman Jan Rutta scored second-period goals on goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who finished with 25 stops.
Laine’s laser beam to the top corner with just 3:41 left in the third period shattered Glass’s bid for his first NHL shutout. Only minutes earlier, the young Finn hit the post from the same spot at the top of the circle.
Winnipeg (26-12-7) had its three-game win streak snapped and suffered its first regulation loss in seven games. The Jets lead the division by three points over Nashville (25-11-16).
The Jets had difficulty through 40 minutes penetrating the Chicago zone with their usual speed and puck movement. Wheeler said the club seemed unwilling to alter its strategy and chip the puck deep, to its detriment.
"Being stubborn and not wanting to get the puck behind them," he said. "If you want to come up the ice and carve through them, you’re going to have a tough time."
Hellebuyck, who came into the game without a regulation loss in his last nine starts, had no chance on Kampf’s deflection of a low point shot from Connor Murphy at 4:51. But he botched the shot from Rutta, who burst down the right side and released a shot from a bad angle at 16:25.
Winnipeg needs to regroup in a hurry or the squad will begin its league-mandated bye week Sunday on a bitter note. The Jets, who kicked off a three-game road trip with a 7-4 triumph in Buffalo Tuesday, take on the Minnesota Wild tonight at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Hawks, who lead the league in average shots per game (34.7), buzzed around Hellebuyck but managed just seven shots in the opening period. The Jets puckstopper, selected Wednesday to play in the NHL All-Star Game later this month, got a nice feel for the biscuit early, stopping rookie forward Alex DeBrincat’s hard wrist shot through a maze of legs just two minutes in.
Try as they might, Winnipeg couldn’t break Glass. The 32-year-old former world junior star for Canada, finally getting a taste of the NHL after more than 12 years split between the American Hockey League and the KHL, earned his third victory since being called up in late December after an injury to longtime No. 1 Corey Crawford.
Glass was sensational at times, making brilliant breakaway stops on Mathieu Perreault and Kyle Connor in the middle period with the hosts up 1-0.
The save of the game went to Chicago defenceman Gustav Forsling late in the first period, as the Jets nearly got their most fortuitous goal of the season. With a delayed penalty coming to Dustin Byfuglien, an errant pass by blue-liner Jan Rutta slid dangerously toward his own net but was swiped away with inches to spare by Forsling.
Right after Kyle Connor was stoned on a breakaway, Rutta increased the ’Hawks’ lead to 2-0.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice wasn’t displeased with his club’s effort.
"It was just even. I don’t think they were getting to our net for second or third opportunities. We were in alone a couple of times, had a three-on-one but didn’t convert. It wasn’t an offensive game. It wasn’t for both teams," said Maurice. "There were big chunks of our game I liked today, I like the way we’ve played the last month. We’re not winning every game, so we’ll move on to the next one."
NOTES: Michael Hutchinson wore a Jets jersey once again. The 27-year-old backed up Hellebuyck after veteran Steve Mason told the team he was "not feeling well" after the morning skate.
Mason missed seven games in late November and early December with a concussion.
"We don’t want to take any chances with him, given his past history. We think he’s fine and we’ll know more (Saturday)," said Maurice.
"He finished practice and then got back from the rink he wasn’t feeling good, so we brought another guy in."
Hutchinson practised earlier in the day in Winnipeg with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose but caught a flight to Chicago in time for the pre-game skate.
Injured centre Adam Lowry (lower body) was placed on the injured reserve list retroactive to Jan. 5. He’ll be sidelined until after Winnipeg’s league-mandated five-day break.
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 Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 12:05 AM CST: Full write through