March 22, 2019

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Record: 44 – 26 – 4

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Winnipeg Jets (44 – 26 – 4)

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Jets hit jackpot with 6-3 win in Vegas

Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor, second from right at rear, celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period Friday in Las Vegas.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor, second from right at rear, celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period Friday in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — Nikolaj Ehlers returned after seven weeks away, while Patrik Laine’s scoring touch showed up after a similar absence.

An infusion of both was pivotal for the Winnipeg Jets, who desperately needed a spark and received a double shot here Friday night.

The Laine watch is over. The young winger's rifle finally had a couple of shells in it as he halted a 15-game scoring slump with his 26th and 27th goals of the season in Winnipeg's 6-3 triumph over the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.

Laine's rips came courtesy of two perfect feeds from Blake Wheeler with the Jets on the power play.

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LAS VEGAS — Nikolaj Ehlers returned after seven weeks away, while Patrik Laine’s scoring touch showed up after a similar absence.

An infusion of both was pivotal for the Winnipeg Jets, who desperately needed a spark and received a double shot here Friday night.

The Laine watch is over. The young winger's rifle finally had a couple of shells in it as he halted a 15-game scoring slump with his 26th and 27th goals of the season in Winnipeg's 6-3 triumph over the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.

Laine's rips came courtesy of two perfect feeds from Blake Wheeler with the Jets on the power play. 

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dmitry Kulikov celebrates after left wing Nikolaj Ehlers scored against the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period Friday.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dmitry Kulikov celebrates after left wing Nikolaj Ehlers scored against the Vegas Golden Knights during the first period Friday.

Ehlers, meanwhile, wasted no time making his presence felt. The ultrasonic Dane, who returned to the lineup after missing 20 games with an upper-body injury Jan. 4, scored just 56 seconds into his first shift since then. It was his 16th goal of the season.

There was no debate on whose offensive contribution thrilled him most.

"I don't think I've ever jumped that high as I did when (Laine) scored his first," Ehlers said. "Yeah, you know it's nice to see. I'm sure it makes him feel a little bit better, too, and the team is happy to get a guy like him going. He did well (Friday).

Winnipeg (37-20-4) regained top spot in the Central Division after vacating it briefly Thursday to the Nashville Predators.

It was the Jets' first-ever jackpot in Sin City after losing all three games last season, including a pair of games in the Western Conference final.

Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor scores against Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury during the first period.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor scores against Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury during the first period.

The Jets have now split the first two games of a three-game road trip. They were spanked in a 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday in Denver.

The Jets and Arizona Coyotes collide Sunday in Phoenix.

For Laine, seeing those one-timers soar behind Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was a huge relief.

"It’s been a while, so I didn’t know how to react," said Laine, who hadn't scored since Jan. 13 at home to the Anaheim Ducks. "Again, a great pass from (Wheeler). I’m not going to miss that again.

"I was just battling as hard as I can. This is one of the best games I’ve seen in a while from me. I just tried to play hard with those two guys, a couple of world-class players, so it’s pretty easy to play with those two. They seemed to find me pretty good.

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dmitry Kulikov and Vegas Golden Knights centre Brandon Pirri vie for the puck during the second period.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dmitry Kulikov and Vegas Golden Knights centre Brandon Pirri vie for the puck during the second period.

"It was just a matter of time (before) it was going in. Tonight was the night."

Laine was added to the line of Wheeler and centre Mark Scheifele. At 5-on-5, the 20-year-old was still a minus-2 on the night, while his linemates were each minus-1, however, head coach Paul Maurice wasn't about to get picky after a emotionally charged rebound game from his squad.

"There wouldn't be any part of our game I didn't like. The power play (with) two huge goals, our penalty-killing (a perfect 3-for-3) was outstanding in its effort. Connor (Hellebuyck) makes a fantastic save down at the end (off Oscar Lindberg), our gap was right," said Maurice.

This wasn't a perfect performance by any means. Proper defensive coverage remains a work in progress in order to cut down on the high-danger chances of their opponents.

But the visitors definitely uipped their team speed from the disaster in Denver. The stars ramped up their games and the line of Adam Lowry line, Brandon Tanev and Andrew Copp was back in business as a pesky pack.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck blocks a shot by Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith during the second period.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck blocks a shot by Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith during the second period.

Call it a solid step forward. 

"We took one on the chin pretty heavy the other night and we've got a real fine captain and leadership in that room and they were wired right from the start. There is a jolt when you get a guy like (Ehlers) back. Seven weeks, that's as good a trade as is gonna happen in the NHL when you get a guy back in your lineup like that.

"One of the biggest celebrations of the year was on our bench after (Laine) scored that first one. That's the way a team should be. It should rally around one of its teammates," he added.

Ehlers had been out since Jan. 4 after suffering an unspecified upper-body injury – believed to be either a wrist or shoulder problem – in a collision in Pittsburgh with Penguins star centre Sidney Crosby.

On Thursday, Jets coach Paul Maurice ruled Ehlers out but had an about-face Friday.

Winnipeg Jets winger Andrew Copp and Vegas Golden Knights centre William Karlsson vie for the puck during the third period.

CP

Winnipeg Jets winger Andrew Copp and Vegas Golden Knights centre William Karlsson vie for the puck during the third period.

The line of Little, Ehlers and Kyle Connor paid immediate dividends,

"Yeah, I saw (Connor) coming down with the puck and I just went to the net and it bounced right in front of me (laughs.) Not too bad," recounted Ehlers. "You're pumped up to be back and you get on the ice, you skate down, you go to the net, and it comes right to you. It's a pretty good feeling. I think, as a line and as a team, we all did well tonight."

Just 32 seconds after Ehlers opened the scoring, Connor beat Fleury as well. Little, centring the two dynamic forwards, set up both goals. He now has an even 300 helpers for his career.

Goals by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Shea Theodore tied the contest by the midway mark of the second period. But then Laine scored his first with 31 seconds left in the middle period, and Lowry snapped a 19-game scoring drought with his eighth with only four ticks left on the clock.

Jonathan Marchessault and Copp, into an empty net, traded goals in the final frame.

Winnipeg was 2-for-4 on the power play.

Hellebuyck finished with 29 saves, including that brilliant stop on Lindberg with five minutes left and the visitors down by two. Fleury made 23 stops.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey skates around Vegas Golden Knights centre Cody Eakin during the third period.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey skates around Vegas Golden Knights centre Cody Eakin during the third period.

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
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).

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History

Updated on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 1:15 AM CST: Full write through, final version.

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