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This article was published 14/12/2018 (306 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CHICAGO — It’s time the sniper label for the Western Conference-leading Winnipeg Jets gets shared by Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine.
Scheifele’s become a deadly shooter for the Central Division club and he flashed his uncanny scoring knack again Friday at United Center, opening the scoring in the first period and capping off an exciting night with the overtime winner just 50 seconds in as the Jets registered a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Jets’ top centre now has 20 goals, just three behind Laine, who fired a second-period goal for the visitors.
The hockey world witnessed Scheifele's scoring ability last spring during the Stanley Cup playoffs when he delivered 14 goals in 17 games for Winnipeg.
"We need him to be that kind of player for us. And he has been. He’s delivered," said Jets veteran centre Bryan Little. "It seems like he’s always scoring those big goals when we need them. He’s a leader in the dressing room and a leader on the ice... can’t say enough good things about him."
The Jets (21-9-2) pushed their winning streak to four games and moved to first in the Western Conference, a point ahead of the Nashville Predators (21-10-1).
Scheifele has climbed into fifth spot in NHL scoring, tied with linemate Blake Wheeler with 43 points.
Winnipeg led 3-2 after two periods and were in control for most of the final frame. But with the Chicago net empty, 'Hawks defenceman Eric Gustafsson hammered home the equalizer behind goalie Laurent Brossoit with just 7.5 seconds left in regulation.
But the Jets gutted out their second OT win in 24 hours — they defeated the visiting Edmonton Oilers 5-4 Thursday — and have eight victory in their last nine outings.
"It looked like a back to back. We spent some energy (Thursday against Edmonton)," said Jets coach Paul Maurice. "It was more physical than it looked, there was some grind in that game (with the Oilers). So, you get in the (Chicago) hotel at 2 or 3 in the morning. We weren’t fresh but our goaltender gave us a chance to win and we got some big time plays by our 'A' guys."
Brossoit was solid with a 34-save performance.
While Chicago’s trio of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith administered early pressure in the three-on-three overtime session, Scheifele, Wheeler and Josh Morrissey escaped on a three-on-two rush, not unlike the play that ended Thursday’s OT session against the Oilers.
This time, Morrissey didn’t score on an in-close chance but Scheifele picked up the puck behind the net, wrapped around and let a quick shot go that Hawks goalie Corey Crawford couldn’t handle.
"It just came out, no one came to me. I was actually looking for Wheels coming down the far side. They kind of let me go and just found the spot," said Scheifele.
Wheeler picked up an assist on the play, his third of the game. Scheifele finished with two goals and a helper, setting up Mathieu Perreault’s breakaway goal late in the second period to give Winnipeg a 3-2 lead.
Scheifele, Wheeler and Morrissey are becoming a formidable threesome in OT.
"Three good hockey players that like to play with each other. That’s about it. We skate with each other a bit in the summer. I think we just enjoy playing with each other," said Scheifele.
Perreault has become a regular contributor to what was already a destructive offensive attack. The veteran forward has rediscovered his scoring touch, ripping his third goal in as many games.
Perreault stepped out of the penalty box, crept behind a pair of Chicago defenders and called for a pass. Scheifele delivered and the diminutive winger raced in and beat Crawford with a hard, low shot for his sixth of the season with just 17.2 seconds left in the second period.
"He’s obviously been really versatile for us all year. He’s kind of our swiss army knife," Wheeler said of Perreault. "He fluctuates throughout the lineup. He can fill in really anywhere. It seems like whenever he’s given an opportunity for more ice time, more minutes, he makes the most of it."
The goal snapped a 2-2 tie and came about four minutes after Laine’s rocket evened the matchup. Perreault went 13 games without a goal but registered power-play markers against the Blackhawks on Tuesday and the Oilers on Thursday.
The Jets’ penalty killers — aided by the terrific netminding of Brossoit — snuffed out a late man-advantage opportunity for Chicago.
Head to the sin bin at your peril against the Jets. The squad’s lethal power play struck on its first chance of the first period as Scheifele accepted a feed through traffic from Wheeler and scored with just under six minutes left.
Dustin Byfuglien orchestrated the play from the point and picked up his sixth assist in his last three games. The Jets’ power-play unit has scored eight power-play goals in 17 chances over their last four games.
Much of the recent destruction has been generated from blasts from the point. But Scheifele’s goal was textbook, as he found a crease in the slot and waited for one of NHL’s premier setup men to find him, although he didn’t have to wait long. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews was seated in the penalty box for just 41 seconds when Winnipeg struck.
Toews scored his second goal of the game earlier in the middle frame, finishing off a 2-on-1 with Brandon Saad.
The 30-year-old Winnipegger demonstrated he’s still a lethal shooter, firing two pucks past Brossoit for his 15th and 16th goals of the year — pushing his NHL total to 308, all coming in a ‘Hawks jersey.
Just the other day, he recorded his 700th point against the Pittsburgh Penguins, becoming the seventh player in Chicago’s storied hockey history to reach the milestone.
Brossoit, meanwhile, reinforced his role as a seemingly unflappable backup in limited duty behind No. 1 netminder Connor Hellebuyck. From the opening puck drop, the 25-year-old Port Alberni, B.C., product was on point.
Winnipeg welcomes all-world forward Nikita Kucherov, Steve Stamkos and the rest of Tampa Bay’s starry cast of characters to Bell MTS Place on Sunday. The Jets and Lightning face off at 6 p.m.
The NHL’s front-runners (25-7-1) are on a tear, collecting eight consecutive victories on a sizzling streak that began Nov. 29 at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
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 Friday, December 14, 2018 at 11:22 PM CST: Adds photos
11:35 PM: Full write through with post-game quotes.