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This article was published 2/3/2018 (1161 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Patrik Laine’s hands and goal-scoring savvy have never been in doubt but it’s the 19-year-old’s feet that have fuelled a recent upsurge in production.
On Friday night, the sophomore right-winger scored his team-leading 32nd and 33rd goals to power the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-3 triumph over the Detroit Red Wings in NHL action before 15,321 fans at Bell MTS Place.
Laine, the second-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, now has eight goals and 13 points in his last seven games. He is only three shy of equalling the 36 goals he scored in 73 games during his rookie season.
"I think I just started to skate more," said Laine. "I just try to work hard and play as simple as can and I think that’s the biggest reason why I’m getting rewarded. It’s just the skating, (that’s) the biggest thing."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice’s explanation was even more direct.
"His feet. He’s skating. He’s driving harder," said Maurice. "He’s skating better, with and without the puck and because of that, his timing is right and everything else is falling into place for him."
Detroit, fifth in the Atlantic, fell to 26-28-10.
The Jets spotted the Wings a 1-0 lead on a goal by Niklas Kronwall at 12:46 of the first period but Laine, who sniped after eluding the check of Dylan Larkin and curling to the net, and Ben Chiarot, with his first of the season, responded 26 seconds apart to give the hosts a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. Laine’s first of the night was a good example of what Maurice was talking about.
"That is exactly the idea," said Maurice. "He’s a big strong powerful man that has whole other pieces to his game. He can still develop and are going to make him even more dynamic."
The Jets, who are second in the Central Division with a 38-17-9 record, hit the road for six-game trip beginning Sunday night in Carolina against the Hurricanes.
In the middle frame, Dustin Byfuglien added his fifth of the season on a one-timer, finishing off a superb cross-ice feed from Josh Morrissey. The goal capped an 85-second, 27-pass flurry of zone time by the Jets, leaving the five Detroit players on the ice exhausted.
"I think they were tired... We had a lot of O-zone time," said Morrissey, who finished the game with two assists and 24:21 of ice time. "They were gassed. You could see the puck would go to the corner and they were pretty straight-legged. That’s where you just want to keep buzzing.
"The forwards did a great job getting some pucks back and playing with Buff, we’ve played together enough, especially last year in practice. There’s a little bit of chemistry there... When you’re playing with him, he can see those areas and go to those places and he found a great spot and I just put it on his tape."
Detroit’s Anthony Mantha closed the gap to 3-2 before Laine went to work again, taking a clever feed from Nikolaj Ehlers at the Red Wings’ blue line and snapping a shot into the top corner over goaltender Jimmy Howard’s blocker.
In the third period, defenceman Trevor Daley pulled the Wings to within 4-3, beating Connor Hellebuyck with a nice individual effort.
The victory came three days after a late collapse resulted in a 6-5 home loss to the Nashville Predators.
"I thought we did a lot of good things against Nashville, probably played a better game than we did tonight even though we got the win," said Morrissey. "I didn’t love our first period, I really liked our second and in the third we took our foot off the gas a little bit. You have to find a way to win and in the last six minutes, we did pretty good job and Helly made some big saves."
Morrissey admitted the Jets will have to work hard to maintain a playoff level of play.
"It’s imperative you get it up to that level," said Morrissey. "You look at Detroit, they played hard tonight. They did a lot of the things we do to other teams in the first period and throughout the game. They’ve got a lot of speed, they really pressured us, they had good sticks. It just seemed like you never had a clean play. It’s something we’re really good at. When we got skating in the second, we started to find our games."
Hellebuyck finished the game with 30 saves. Howard stopped 38 shots.
MASON’S STATUS: Veteran goaltender Steve Mason will begin a one- or two-game conditioning stint with the AHL’s Moose Saturday against the Iowa Wild.
Mason will then rejoin the Jets Tuesday in New York against the Rangers. He is expected to make at least one start on the trip.
Mason, a 29-year-old unrestricted free agent who signed a two-year deal with Winnipeg in the off-season, suffered his second concussion of the season when he took a shot off his mask during a morning skate in Chicago on Jan. 12.
He has played only three times since suffering his first concussion Nov. 25 in San Jose. His season numbers thus far include a 3-6-1 record, .897 save percentage and a 3.52 goals-against average.
Once Mason is recalled, Michael Hutchinson will be reassigned to Manitoba.
NOTEWORTHY: Winnipeg went 0-for-3 on the power play. Detroit was 1-for-1 with the man advantage.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.