The Winnipeg Jets clearly don't spend a lot of time hanging their heads or licking their wounds after a rough outing. And their impressive ability to quickly bounce back was on full display Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory over Vancouver.
Beat them once? Good for you. Beat them twice in a row? Good luck with that. Paul Maurice's crew is now 6-0-1 after tasting defeat this season, as they did in a lacklustre 4-0 effort against the Canucks just 24 hours earlier at Bell MTS Place to kick off this mini-series against each other.
It's an important quality that will serve Winnipeg well in shortened season, where all 56 games are within the division and a prolonged losing streak could quickly knock you out of contention.
"It's a combination of having a deep team and our leadership. Our veterans have been through it before and been through a lot of seasons and they show us the way," said backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who made 31 saves.
Winnipeg is now 14-7-1, good for second place in the Canadian Division. Vancouver falls to 9-15-2.
Leading the way was No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele, who had three assists Tuesday and now has 15 points (three goals, 12 helpers) in those seven games immediately following a loss. His new-look top line with Blake Wheeler (one goal, two assists) and Paul Stastny (one goal) had a strong night at the office.
But the Jets also got valuable contributions from their depth.
Third-line winger Mason Appleton set a new career high with his sixth goal of the year to open the scoring 5:19 into the game, cutting hard to the net and cashing in a rebound. The tally was big for a couple reasons -- it marked the first time in three games the Jets scored while playing five-on-five, and it was the first time in five games they lit the lamp in the opening 20 minutes.
"That was really, really good. Driving pucks to the net, thinking shot first and there was a lot more chaos around their net that we haven’t seen from our team. There was lots of direct play with the mindset of pucks to the net," Maurice said of how the opening goal set the stage for one of the more complete, 60-minute efforts of the year.
After Elias Pettersson tied it with a wicked wrister a few minutes later, veteran fourth-line winger Mathieu Perreault took advantage of a turnover in the dying seconds of the period and beat Braden Holtby with a backhander at 19:57.
"I saw there was 10 seconds so I just sprinted to the middle of the ice and somehow that puck got loose in their end. I was able to jump on it and fire it on net as quick as I can as I figured there wasn’t much time left. I’m lucky that it went in," Perreault said of his fourth goal of the season, which was followed by a noticeable celebration.
"Scoring goals is always fun for me. So every time I get a chance to help the team get a goal and win a game I always get really excited about it. It’s what I do for a living. I’ve been playing this game since I was born, really. Scoring goals is part of it so every time I score a goal I always get excited. It always gives my team a chance to win the game, so that’s gonna make you feel happy about yourself," he said.
Kyle Connor made it 3-1 at 5:04 of the middle frame with his team on the power play, taking a nifty Wheeler pass, patiently waiting out Holtby and beating him low for his 11th of the year. He's now tied with Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers for the team lead in that department.
Winnipeg's second period was one of their most impressive of the year, and they narrowly missed building their lead with Ehlers and Dylan DeMelo both hitting posts. And you wondered if that might come back to bite them when J.T. Miller scored on a Vancouver power play with five seconds left in the frame to cut the Jets lead to 3-2.
But Winnipeg came out with the foot on the gas in the third, and Stastny provided some valuable insurance when he took a terrific Wheeler pass in the slot and beat Holtby for his fifth at 9:13. Wheeler then sealed the deal with an empty netter, his seventh, with just over two minutes to play.
"It’s kind of a bit of a theme with this group. They understand what they see on the ice. So we played a really strong second period and that goal had nothing to do with how good our period was. So it just kind of continued," said Maurice.
"I think a big part of it is they sit on the bench, they watch the game, they know what they’re seeing; you don’t have to convince them of how well they played in the second. We didn’t lose confidence with that goal, like ‘oh my god, the game is going to shift the other way.’ It was right; we’ll just keep playing the way we were playing."
Brossoit, who sees limited duty behind reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck, is now 4-1-0 in five spot starts this season with a sterling 2.19 goals-against-average and .936 save percentage. Two of those wins have been against his hometown Canucks, including a 29-save shutout in Vancouver back on Feb. 19.
"I don't want to get too confident, too cocky. It's the best league in the world and there's great players out there, so I like to keep myself pretty grounded and realistic. I just prepare as best I can and hope that my best is better than anyone else in the league," said Brossoit, who dished out plenty of credit to the play he saw in front of him.
"Our second period was as good as you can get. They were just making the small little passes, a lot of support. I didn't generally have a lot to do. And then that third period, especially after they scored one to cut the lead to one, for us to play the way we did, I think that's the sign of a really good, elite team. Getting a lot of time in the offensive zone, not sitting back – those are all those little things that take a lot of veteran leadership. We did a really good job of that."
The Jets now hit the road for the next five games, starting Thursday night in Montreal, and will play 12 of their next 14 away from Bell MTS Place.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.