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This article was published 3/12/2017 (1414 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They’re like sharks in the water these days. And when the Winnipeg Jets smell blood, their killer instinct takes over.
Such was the case again Sunday night at Bell MTS Place, as the Ottawa Senators turned into easy prey thanks to several self-inflicted wounds. Winnipeg struck early and often, including three times on the power play, to cruise to a 5-0 victory that actually wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicates.
"Maybe one of the most dominating performances I’ve been part of in this league, to be honest. From the first minute, we took over the game," said forward Mathieu Perreault.
The new-look top line, which saw Perreault take the spot of injured Kyle Connor, led the way. Captain Blake Wheeler had a goal and three assists, Perreault scored and added two helpers, and Mark Scheifele had a goal and assist as the Jets improved to 17-6-4, including 9-0-1 in their past 10 home games. Winnipeg leads the Western Conference and is tied with Tampa Bay for most points in the NHL.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 21 shots he faced for his first shutout of the year. Winnipeg fired 49 shots, their most in any game this season and just one short of their single-game franchise record, on Ottawa’s net.
"It’s incredible the way we’re clicking right now and the confidence in this room. It’s fun to watch," said Hellebuyck, who improved his record to 15-2-3. "This is more of a team shutout. When the guys are playing as good as they are in front of me, it makes my life a lot easier. When one guy is feeling it, you can see it go through the locker room. That’s what we have in here now. Whenever somebody might fall off it, everyone else picks him up."
The struggling Senators, who came into the game with just one win in their past eight contests, didn’t help their cause A too many men on the ice penalty gave the Jets an early power play, and they needed just 14 seconds to capitalize. Dustin Byfuglien made a nice play at the blue line to keep the puck in and fed Wheeler along the right wall, who fed a perfect cross-seam pass to a wide-open Scheifele. He beat Ottawa goalie Mike Condon for his team-leading 14th of the year just 2:20 into the game,
Ottawa came close to tying it as Winnipeg native Mark Stone hit the crossbar. But just seconds later, Perreault tipped home a Jacob Trouba point shot to make it 2-0 at the six-minute mark.
Winnipeg continued to swarm, holding Ottawa without a shot for more than 13 straight minutes in the opening frame. Bryan Little looked to have made it 3-0, but Condon gloved away a certain goal with one of the nicest saves of the season. The Jets outshot Ottawa 19-3 through 20 minutes.
Winnipeg didn’t sit on the lead, coming out strong to begin the middle frame. Scheifele somehow found Wheeler with a great pass from behind the Ottawa net, and the captain buried it to make it 3-0 just over three minutes into the period.
Then Ottawa imploded, taking away any chance they might have had for a comeback.
Dion Phaneuf took an undisciplined cross-checking penalty, and just 21 seconds later Ottawa’s bench was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct for screaming at the officials. Winnipeg, given an extended five-on-three, scored twice in thirty seconds to put the game away.
First, Patrik Laine buried a shot from his usual spot on the left side of the slot. It was his 13th of the year, and his 49th career goal in what was his 100th career game.
Then Tyler Myers — skating in his 500th game — made it 5-0 when his blast from the point got through a crowd.
That chased Condon from the crease. He’d surrendered five goals on 22 shots, including three on the only three shots he faced in the second. Craig Anderson took over in net.
"We were pretty solid right through. I thought it was a real powerful, long start. There was a good 25 or 30 minutes there, and then the game changes. It’s not the same kind of game," coach Paul Maurice said of what he believes was one of their most complete efforts of the season.
"At 5-0 the bench is coaching itself, they’re talking to each other about what they want to get done. They really didn’t change much. They stayed on it," said Maurice. "It was a good win. We’ll absolutely leave this one here. That wasn’t Ottawa’s best game. I’ve watched them play now. They’re capable of some better hockey. So it was just a 60-minute, two pointer. We’ll forget this one as fast as we played it."
Winnipeg entered the game fourth in the NHL on the power play, and second-best at home. Giving them ample opportunities, as the Senators, is not an ideal plan for success.
"It’s huge. The power play is definitely something that’s been awesome for us," said Scheifele, who now sits in a tie for fifth-overall in NHL scoring, one point behind teammate Wheeler. "We just got to keep it going and continue to learn. There’s still things we can fix and still things we can work on. I think we need to keep that mentality to not be complacent. We need to continue to work on things and continue to get better because we know every team is doing that as well."
The Jets may want to lobby the NHL to play more Sunday evening games at home. Their only previous date this season saw them race out to an early 5-0 lead over Pittsburgh on Oct. 29 on their way to a 7-1 rout. Last night’s game followed a similar pattern.
Winnipeg now hits the road for a three-game trip starting Tuesday in Detroit. The Red Wings are licking their wounds following a 10-1 defeat on Saturday night against Montreal. The Jets then head to Florida for games against the Panthers and league-leading Lightning before returning home next Monday against Vancouver.
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.