December 16, 2018

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Jets storm back after sloppy start

Five-goal first period follows early Chicago marker

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p><p>Winnipeg Jets forwards Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Paul Stastny and defenceman Ben Chiarot celebrate Stastny's goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during first period in Winnipeg on Thursday.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Winnipeg Jets forwards Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Paul Stastny and defenceman Ben Chiarot celebrate Stastny's goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during first period in Winnipeg on Thursday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/3/2018 (275 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A pair of mid-winter defeats to the Chicago Blackhawks — troubling at the time — are now long forgotten.

Those setbacks are in the past for the well-balanced, high-flying Winnipeg Jets, who’ve left the once-dominant, former perennial Stanley Cup favourites in their rear-view mirror this NHL season.

Down a goal just 11 seconds after the opening draw Thursday night, the Jets replied with five of their own before the first period was over and cruised to a 6-2 victory over the visiting Blackhawks.

Boosted by the long-awaited return of defenceman Jacob Trouba and the all-clear sign given to slick centre Paul Stastny after he spent one game on the shelf, Winnipeg (42-19-10) made Central Division cellar-dwelling Chicago look sluggish and uninterested.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/3/2018 (275 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A pair of mid-winter defeats to the Chicago Blackhawks — troubling at the time — are now long forgotten.

Those setbacks are in the past for the well-balanced, high-flying Winnipeg Jets, who’ve left the once-dominant, former perennial Stanley Cup favourites in their rear-view mirror this NHL season.

Down a goal just 11 seconds after the opening draw Thursday night, the Jets replied with five of their own before the first period was over and cruised to a 6-2 victory over the visiting Blackhawks.

Boosted by the long-awaited return of defenceman Jacob Trouba and the all-clear sign given to slick centre Paul Stastny after he spent one game on the shelf, Winnipeg (42-19-10) made Central Division cellar-dwelling Chicago look sluggish and uninterested.

The list of five Jets marksmen did not include the name Patrik Laine, who had 12 goals in the club’s previous nine contests. In fact, the club generated a goal from each of its four lines.

"This team preaches about depth and we have a lot of it, and it’s good to get guys back with Jacob and (Stastny). We’re good up and down the lineup," said rookie forward Jack Roslovic, who scored his fourth goal of the year and chipped in an assist.

"(Trouba and Stastny) are two of our older guys and leaders on the bench. When someone moves out, we have people to replace them. But when they come back, when they’re healthy, it’s always a good thing."

Trouba, who missed 20 games with an ankle injury, finished the night with two assists in 14 minutes, 47 seconds of play. Only Joe Morrow played fewer minutes (14:29) on the Jets defence, as head coach Paul Maurice stuck with a plan to ensure a less-taxing night for the fifth-year blue-liner.

Trouba seemed almost surprised by how easily he meshed after seven weeks away.

"It felt good, felt better than I was expecting," he said. "We got off to a little bit of a different start with the goal there but nothing really changed on the bench which was nice to see. I kind of missed being part of that, everyone staying positive, the same kind of attitude."

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p><p>Chicago Blackhawks centre Artem Anisimov misses a chance on net against Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during the first period.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Chicago Blackhawks centre Artem Anisimov misses a chance on net against Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during the first period.

Trouba grinned when asked whether he was content with how his minutes were managed.

"Ya, I guess," he said. "It’s nice to have the luxury to ease your way back into it. I guess it’s nice. (Being a workhorse) is what I prefer but it is nice... not go overboard and push it to the max."

The Blackhawks beat the Jets 5-1 in Winnipeg in mid-December and 2-1 in early January.

But the 2010, ’13 and ’15 NHL champions are, for the first time in a decade, irrelevant as the rush to the post-season begins to ignite.

The Jets, meanwhile, have their collective compass aimed in a direction mostly foreign to them. Firmly entrenched in second spot in the Central — nine points up on the Minnesota Wild — it’s no longer a matter of whether the club qualifies for its second playoff appearance since arriving from Atlanta in 2011 but how deep in the playoffs they go.

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves to up his record to 36-11-9 this season.

Brandon Saad beat him cleanly just 11 seconds in but, he maintained, his confidence didn’t waiver.

"We’re a great offensive team and sometimes the first shot goes in. That’s not that big of a deal," said Hellebuyck. "These guys play great in front of me, all the details are good."

Winnipeg, enjoying its first of six straight on home ice after going 3-2-1 on the road to begin the month — came out guns blazing, snapping a three-game winless streak.

Goals by Stastny, Joel Armia and Roslovic on just six shots chased starting goalie Anton Forsberg from the cage before the initial frame was half over. His stand-in, J.F. Berube, surrendered goals to Bryan Little and Kyle Connor late in the period.

Maurice said Stastny’s quick answer back was key.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p><p>Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor scores his first of two goals on Chicago Blackhawks goaltender J-F Berube during first period, Thursday. Connor would later score an empty-net goal in the third period for his secong of the evening.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Winnipeg Jets left wing Kyle Connor scores his first of two goals on Chicago Blackhawks goaltender J-F Berube during first period, Thursday. Connor would later score an empty-net goal in the third period for his secong of the evening.

"We’ve been pretty good all year that our game really doesn’t change a lot if something ugly happens early in the game," he said. "Being able to answer right back is important. It makes you feel good. And then again, and now you’ve got them on their heels a little bit.

"I thought the compete was good. Having (Trouba) back helped. (Andrew) Copp’s line and Roslovic’s line, again, really important for us being good. Being able to use the ice well enough. They make good plays. There’s some skill there, too."

Connor, in his rookie campaign, added an empty-netter to push his scoring to the 25-goal mark.

As expected, the Blackhawks offered some pushback in the second period, and Patrick Sharp converted from the doorstop after some good work behind the net by Nick Schmaltz.

Saad had opened the scoring on the game’s first shift, busting down the right side and beating Hellebuyck glove side. Winnipeg challenged the play, alleging Jonathan Toews was off-side.

And a couple of different TV angles indicated he very well could have been, however, as the NHL hockey operations later said in its explanation, "... it was determined there were no definitive replays which showed that Chicago’s Jonathan Toews was off-side prior to the puck crossing the blue line."

The deficit didn’t last long. Stastny, back in the lineup after missing Tuesday’s contest in Nashville, poked in his 15th goal of the season — his third as a Jet — past Forsberg at 3:43, after wingers Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers played catch through the neutral zone.

Laine made NHL history on the play, extending his point streak to 14 games, the longest ever by a teen.

Armia scored his 12th just under two minutes later on a deflection off a point blast from Trouba to lift the Jets into the lead.

Signal the blowout. Roslovic stripped Artem Anisimov of the puck on the ‘Hawks side of centre, fended him off and then fired his fourth of the year at 9:26, prompting a goalie change. Late in the period, Little snapped an 11-game scoring drought with his 14th marker on a hard, high shot past Berube at 17:36, and then assisted on Connor’s first of two just 44 seconds later.

The Jets face the visiting Dallas Stars on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

 

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 Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 10:48 PM CDT: Full write through

11:06 PM: Final version

March 16, 2018 at 6:09 AM: Minor corrections

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