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This article was published 15/1/2019 (213 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The only knock on Laurent Brossoit this season was that his outstanding work in the Winnipeg Jets’ crease had come at the expense of NHL lightweights.
That was before the masterpiece he crafted Tuesday night.
Brossoit, a surprise starter against a red-hot Vegas squad, stole the show at Bell MTS Place, blocking 43 shots to propel the Jets to a 4-1 triumph over the visiting Golden Knights.
His best work came in the middle frame as Vegas — the beneficiaries of four power-play chances — blasted 26 shots at Brossoit but couldn’t solve him.
The 26 saves in a period constitutes a new franchise record, eclipsing the old mark of 25 set by Ondrej Pavelec on Jan. 21, 2017 in the second period against the St. Louis Blues.
Signed to a one-year, US$650,000 deal in the summer, Brossoit is the bargain that keeps paying off for the Winnipeg organzation.
"He’s been outstanding all year. We’ve probably said it a million times now," said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who collected his 50th and 51st assists of the season on empty-net goals by Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele.
"You can tell he came into camp with a chip on his shoulder, something to prove. (He) got an opportunity here and boy has he been a difference-maker for our team. He’s one of those guys that’s a driver every day — in practice and in games — you can tell. His performance, when he’s in the net, he’s been great this year."
Brossoit is 10-0-1 in 11 starts this season, although the Jets rarely make it easy on him. He has faced at least 35 shots in eight of 11 starts, including seven in a row. That’s above Winnipeg’s average of 32.2 shots allowed per game this season.
Coming in, Brossoit had earned a pair of victories over both the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, and wins over the Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Coyotes, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks. He also suffered a shootout loss against the Buffalo Sabres.
All of those clubs are below the playoff line in their conferences, although to be fair Buffalo and Carolina were both riding high when Brossoit faced them but have since faded in the Eastern Conference.
Indeed, the 25-year-old British Columbia product is a confident man right now, although the news Monday from head coach Paul Maurice that he would start came as a bit of a jolt.
"I was partly surprised. At the same time the competitive edge in me, every time I play well I hope that next game comes sooner and sooner," said Brossoit, whose last start came Friday in Detroit, a 33-save effort in a 4-2 win against the Red Wings. "So, (Monday) was one of those days where I half-expected it and just looked forward."
Connor scored his 17th goal of the season to open the scoring in the second period and Mathieu Perreault fired his 10th to spark Winnipeg to a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes.
Brandon Pirri scored his eighth goal in just 11 games for Vegas on a nifty deflection just 63 seconds into the final period but the Jets held firm, allowing just eight shots the rest of the way.
The Jets upped their Central Division-leading record to 30-14-2. The Golden Knights, winners of eight of their last 10 prior to visiting Winnipeg, are 28-17-4 and remain third in the Pacific Division.
Winnipeg swept all three games of a homestand, dumping Detroit, the Anaheim Ducks and the explosive Golden Knights.
"Yeah. No question, a great hockey team and on fire right now," said Brossoit. "It was the toughest team I’ve played this season so far, and to go out there and perform and feel the way I did, it’s definitely an added boost of confidence for me right now."
Brossoit established himself early, snapping out a pad to block Max Pacioretty’s quick shot five minutes into a scoreless first period. He also coolly stopped Pirri’s attempt from in tight in the final seconds of the frame.
Early in the second period, Brossoit tracked and turned aside a knee-high deflection by Golden Knights’ leading goal scorer Alex Tuch as the visitors ratcheted up the pressure with 10 straight shots before the seven-minute mark, including three during a mad scramble with Jets’ blue-liner Joe Morrow serving a minor penalty.
Brossoit’s best save came when he slid across to thwart Jonathan Marchessault’s wrap-around try.
"Probably kind of that split where the rebound came in behind the net and then he tried to stuff it and I made a couple saves in the glove after that. That felt nice," Brossoit said.
On the next faceoff, Connor scampered away on a breakaway and deked out Marc-Andre Fleury for the club’s sixth short-handed marker of the year.
Vegas’ power-play unit hadn’t surrendered a goal all season before Tuesday.
"I knew the guy was on my back and I didn’t know what (Fleury) was going to do there. I just kind of made my move and he threw out the poke check so it opened up..." said Connor, who blew past defenceman Nate Schmidt on the play.
The fleet-footed winger, a recent addition to the Jets’ penalty-killing unit, has been effective.
"It’s a role I’ve embraced. I like doing it and it kind of keeps you in the flow of the game a bit. I think I can use my speed to kind of create some havoc out there," Connor said.
The Jets erased six Vegas man-advantage chances, including a two-man advantage in the middle frame. Brossoit’s sensational play with his club under seige was the difference.
"A number of really good stands at the blue line. We weren’t easy to penetrate and then some good shot blocking. Laurent’s play was the difference between us winning and losing the game and giving up a power-play goal. He was outstanding," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice, on the play of his penalty killers, including the man wearing the mask.
Clearly, Brossoit is an option on just about any night when No. 1 puck-stopper Connor Hellebuyck needs a break. Maurice was asked what it would take for his backup to get consecutive assignments.
"Less than 45 shots as a starter. He pulled a lot of weight here tonight. He certainly put himself in a position where we can get far more starts out of him," said Maurice.
It was the first meeting between the teams since last spring’s Western Conference final. Vegas won the best-of-seven series in five games. And it marked the return of centre Paul Stastny to Winnipeg. He was acquired from the Blues at the trade deadline last February and proved to be a major addition up the middle for the Jets.
Jets centre Bryan Little suited up for the 800th game of his NHL career Tuesday, all with the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. On Sunday, he registered his 500th career point.
He fed Connor for the crucial game-opener at 5:45 of the second period.
"(Little) is somebody that everybody looks up to in the room. He’s somebody who comes to work every day and is the ultimate professional in everything that he does," said defenceman Josh Morrissey. "What we appreciate about Bryan as teammates, and we get to watch him every day in practices and games, is he’s somebody who has got offensive talents but he plays super hard at both ends of the ice and is just the ultimate teammate, so I’m really happy for him to get that (milestone)."
Battles against divisional rivals loom large this week for the Jets, who head into Nashville on Thursday to face the Predators and then meet the Stars in Dallas 48 hours later.
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 Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 10:15 PM CST: Updates photos
11:31 PM: writethrough