Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/4/2021 (446 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg's elder statesman couldn't make the meeting but the Jets had a singular agenda and took care of business by committee Thursday night.
Beginning a five-game road trip in Montreal without the services of their captain, Blake Wheeler, the Jets spread out a modest amount of offence -- including goals from a couple of unconventional sources -- and were bolstered by a stellar 36-save effort from goalie Connor Hellebuyck in a 4-2 victory over the Canadiens.
After the game, head coach Paul Maurice confirmed Wheeler has been diagnosed with a concussion and remains out of the lineup indefinitely.
Blue-liner Josh Morrissey, fourth-line winger Trevor Lewis and Nikolaj Ehlers got pucks past Montreal goalie Jake Allen in the opening 20 minutes, while Phillip Danault replied for Montreal.
The goal by Morrissey, his third of the season coming 18 seconds after the opening puck drop, was just the eighth produced from the Jets' back end, the fewest of any team in the NHL.
He admitted there was an odd vibe with the ubiquitous Wheeler about 2,300 kilometres away.
"I was thinking about that (Thursday) actually. I don’t know if there’s been a game I’ve played for the Jets that he wasn’t in the lineup. I’d have to check back on that. But over the last five years, I don’t think … so, for me it was maybe a new experience, too, just not having him there," said Morrissey.
He was absolutely correct. Just once since Morrissey's rookie season (2016-17) has Wheeler been missing from the lineup and that was a night three years ago when both skaters, along with a few other regulars, were given the night off to rest up prior to the postseason.
"He's, obviously, the leader of our team and he does so many great things and, obviously, his play, with what he does for us on the ice," added Morrissey. "Guys have to step up in all areas of his absence because it’s a big hole to fill."
The re-tooled fourth line, with Lewis, centre Nate Thompson and Jansen Harkins (dressed for the first time since mid-February) did just that, not long after Danault evened the contest 1-1. Charging hard to the net, Lewis had just one hand on his stick but managed to chip in a centring pass from Neal Pionk for just his second goal of season before the first period was half over.
Ehlers sparked the Jets to a 3-1 lead five minutes later, snapping in his 16th goal of the season to halt a personal 10-game scoring drought.
Maurice clearly enjoyed the equal distribution of labour as his club upped its record to 24-13-3 to remain in third place in the North Division, a point back of the Edmonton Oilers.
"Important shifts by -- and this has happened for a while now -- the Thompson line doing all the things right, big penalty kills tonight. So, you have a bunch of people step up in Blake's absence and perform well, and it wouldn't necessarily be the guys that you might think," said Winnipeg's bench boss. "Clearly, (Hellebuyck's) been so good for us since he's been here but we've got some really good additions to our team that have put us in a stronger position to weather certain injuries."
In some respects, the visitors were fortunate to escape Bell Centre with two points after being commanded by the Habs for long stretches of the second and third frames. The Jets' struggled to break out cleanly and were guilty of giveaways in all areas of the rink.
The Canadiens lived up to their brand under coach Dominique Ducharme, producing plenty offensive-zone time and generating a high volume of shots.
The squads connect again Saturday at 6 p.m. at the home of the Habs.
"We didn't care for our second period, a bunch of things that we did that we hopefully won't do Saturday night. I thought it was a flat game, and on the road sometimes that's a good thing," said Maurice.
Winnipeg's two-goal lead after the opening period was chopped in half in the middle frame on Paul Byron's bizarre tally with just under five minutes left. Canadiens defenceman Jeff Petry fired the puck around the corner boards but it took an odd bounce to the front of the net and Byron had a gift with Hellebuyck out of crease.
A similarly quirky goal happened in the building earlier this year.
"Some things just feel inevitable, right? That one wasn’t even on the glass, that one was on the boards. You know, I’ve been extra careful, especially here. But sometimes it’s just meant to happen," said Hellebuyck.
"You know, I get a little bit angry because I have no control over that kind of a bounce. I just move on and that’s kind of the story of this year, those crappy bounces. I just can’t really afford to give up another one so that becomes my main focus, shutting it down."
Maurice tweaked his top-six in the final frame, moving Andrew Copp with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor, and aligning Ehlers with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Paul Stastny.
Copp, the club's jack-of-all-trades winger, potted an empty-net goal with just 38 seconds left on the clock.
The Canadiens, still without injured starter Carey Price, turned to Allen just 24 hours after he faced the Maple Leafs in Toronto. The veteran netminder could hardly be faulted the first-period deficit, despite surrendering three goals on the first half-dozen shots directed his way. He was solid the rest of the game, finishing with 24 saves.
Corey Perry flashed some of his old scoring touch Monday, notching both Montreal goals in a 3-2 loss to Toronto, however, he revealed his ugly side on a dangerous hit from behind on Dylan DeMelo midway through the second period. That prompted DeMelo's towering defensive partner, Logan Stanley, to shake off the gloves and collar the 16-year veteran, who declined to engage.
"It’s awesome. He’s definitely come a long way. He’s showing that grit, not going to be pushed around out there," Lewis said, of the 6-foot-7 rookie blue-liner. "He’s been playing really well for us."
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).