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This article was published 12/2/2019 (251 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There has been plenty of talk lately about how the Winnipeg Jets need to go out and get an impact forward — preferably a No. 2 centre — to improve their chances of winning the Stanley Cup. Maybe they do, and maybe they will.
But Mark Scheifele reminded everyone Tuesday night that the team certainly has no worries when it comes to the No. 1 position up the middle. Scheifele scored twice — his team-leading 29th and 30th goals of the season — and helped set up another as the Jets rallied for a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers.
"I’m feeling good. Playing with two unbelievable players, so I’m pretty lucky. On any given night we try to do everything for each other," Scheifele said of another big offensive night for him and his linemates.
Winnipeg won for a second straight game and improved to 8-0-1 in the last nine at Bell MTS Place. They are 36-18-3 overall and remain on top of the Central Division, now with a four-point cushion over the Nashville Predators.
Perhaps the most impressive number is the 12-0-0 record Winnipeg now sports when tied after two periods, as they were Tuesday.
"I think what we’re really good at is playing in the other team’s end, so we can kind of grind down a team over the course of 60 minutes. We didn’t have our best for the full 60 tonight, for sure. But we’re confident in our game and we kinda reset after two, we said ‘You know, we’re tied at home, we gotta win these games.’ I think it just says a lot about our confidence and our ability to mentally reset," said forward Andrew Copp, who scored the game-winning goal with just under 13 minutes left in the third period.
The Jets' top line came through in a big way Sunday afternoon in Buffalo to help the Jets snap a season-high three-game losing streak. In that game, Blake Wheeler snapped a tie with just under four minutes to play and Scheifele added an empty-netter to seal it.
They picked up where they left off in the first period Tuesday night.
Scheifele opened the scoring 4:58 into the game, ripping a wrist shot through the five-hole of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Defenceman Joe Morrow fed Scheifele with a slick pass to set up the goal.
Scheifele struck again with just under two minutes left in the period, as Wheeler knocked a puck out of the air and did a great job finding his linemate. It's just the second time in Scheifele's six-year NHL career that he's hit the 30-goal mark. His career high of 32 came in 2016-17.
"He’s not stopping. He’s obviously having a fantastic year, he puts in the work on the ice, off the ice. He’s as dialled in as it gets. It ain’t stopping now, so buckle up," Copp said of Scheifele.
Winnipeg outshot New York 19-10 in the opening period and it seemed like they were going to cruise to an easy win over a team that began the night nine points out of a playoff spot. But that strong work in the first 20 minutes came undone in a sloppy second, where the Jets were outshot 17-9 and outscored 2-0.
New York's top line came out determined and got rewarded just 38 seconds in as Mika Zibanejad beat Connor Hellebuyck for his 24th of the season, with the puck appearing to hit Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba along the way. A penalty by defenceman Dustin Byfuglien for a big hit on Jesper Fast, deemed an elbow, led to a Rangers power-play goal with 41 seconds left in the frame. Pavel Buchnevich got his stick on a point shot from Ryan Strome.
"What a great start by us, coming off a tough road trip, came back into our building and played a great first period. Got slowed down a little bit by penalty kills in the second period," said Wheeler, who played a role in that by taking a tripping penalty just 23 seconds after New York tied the game in the final minute of the middle frame.
It proved costly as Zibanejad gave the Rangers their first lead 57 seconds into the third on the ensuing power play, as his shot hit both Trouba and Josh Morrissey on its way past Hellebuyck.
But the Jets put on their rally caps, with a couple of supporting pieces coming through big.
First it was Morrow, who one-timed a Scheifele pass at the 5:22 mark for his first goal of the season to tie it up. And then the fourth line finished off a strong shift with Copp cashing in just under two minutes later with his sixth of the season, and second in as many games, to put Winnipeg ahead for good.
Copp now has 12 points (four goals and eight assists) in his last 19 games, mainly since moving back to centre the fourth line with Mason Appleton and Brendan Lemieux.
"I’m trying to force (coach Paul Maurice) to make him play us as much as possible. It can be frustrating at times where you’re not getting into your rhythm. But being able to produce like we have, we’re running pretty good right now. It feels good," said Copp.
Hellebuyck made 34 saves for his 26th victory of the season, which puts him alone in third spot among NHL netminders.
"That was just a classic NHL game. They’re going to have a push-back. They probably didn't like their first period after we kind of put it to them. They pushed back. We handed it pretty well. We came back in the third, got back to our game and played it well," said Hellebuyck.
"It was fun back there. The guys in front of me were doing a heck of a job. Our details were right, our gap was right. Guys were blocking shots and really paying the price. You could tell there was a lot of heart in this game."
The three-game homestand continues Thursday with a visit from the Colorado Avalanche, and ends Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.
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.
Updated on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 10:55 PM CST: Adds photo
11:21 PM: Full write through