It took a bit longer than expected to get the motor properly running. But once they got up to speed, the Winnipeg Jets left the Detroit Red Wings in their dust.
Three goals in a two-minute span late in the second period blew a tight game wide open Tuesday at Bell MTS Place as the Jets cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Red Wings, a once-proud franchise that has become the free space on the NHL’s bingo card these days.
"That was definitely a team win, especially against a team that’s been struggling this year. It’s nice to see us come out and give it the same effort that we normally do and not take them easy," said Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who made 15 saves on what was a fairly easy night at the office.
Pity his counterpart (and good friend) Eric Comrie, the 24-year-old goaltender making his first NHL start of the season against the team that drafted him. Comrie was thrown to the wolves, his team appearing deflated and uninterested through large stretches of the game, especially after the winged wheels came off late in the middle frame.
Goals from Blake Wheeler at 16:43, Andrew Copp at 18:32 and Patrik Laine at 18:43 had the Jets off to the races, as a 1-1 game became 4-1 in short order.
"I think when we play with pace and one line gets it going, you start to roll over with some momentum and we kind of feed off that. One shift goes good and then you get another and the bench starts to feel it and then we usually start to capitalize on that momentum. We’ve been good at that this year, for sure," said Copp, a Michigan product who also had an assist.
"Hometown team and kind of the teams you grew up watching and had so much success. Definitely gives you a little extra bump. Especially with some of the familiarities I have with some of the guys on that team makes it even more special. You want to play well when you’re playing against your friends and your hometown team, it gives you a lot of extra boost," said Copp.
Winnipeg improved to 19-10-2, including a 13-3-2 run since the beginning of November. Detroit lost for a 12th straight outing, including the past 10 in regulation, and continue to occupy the basement of the NHL standings at 7-22-3.
The Jets came into the game saying all the right things about not taking the Red Wings for granted — good advice considering one night earlier the Ottawa Senators downed the Boston Bruins and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Washington Capitals in games that were similar mismatches on paper.
But early on it didn’t look like the Jets took the message to heart as they got off to a sleepy start, surrendering the first five shots of the game. A couple of big saves by Brossoit kept the visitors at bay until his teammates got their legs under them.
"They came out pretty hard. I wouldn’t say we came out slow. They had a couple good zone shifts on us and we weathered the storm and I feel like it didn’t last very long," said Brossoit.
Adam Lowry opened the scoring at 12:17 of the first period in controversial fashion. He and Copp went in on a short-handed 2-on-0 breakaway, and Comrie appeared to cover the puck in his crease. Lowry poked away, at one point hitting Comrie in the mask with his stick, and put it over the goal-line.
The referee, who was well behind the play, never blew the whistle. Detroit challenged for goaltender interference, but the NHL ruled the contact was incidental and allowed the goal to stand, as the puck was never deemed frozen.
Lowry’s fourth of the season was his second in as many games.
"It got us out of a kind of a rough start. But (the Red Wings) were good. We’re always thinking you should be playing better, but they were good. They were real good. We got moving a little bit off that," head coach Paul Maurice said of grabbing some momentum on the penalty kill.
"We knew in the first 10 minutes of that game we were going to have to get better. But I think there was lots of confidence that we would. Everybody kind of knew we were a little slow moving the puck, a little slow getting to the puck. And they were quick. They played hard right through that game."
At one point into the second period, the Jets had rattled off 17 straight shots. Detroit centre Christoffer Ehn tied it at 7:39 of the middle frame, as his shot went off the post and hit netminder Connor Hellebuyck in the back of the legs. The ice-cold Hellebuyck was forced into the game as Brossoit dealt with an equipment issue that was taking too long to fix.
Hellebuyck, among the league leaders in goals against and save percentage, won’t be thrilled with a stat line of 69 seconds of ice time, two shots and one goal allowed. Brossoit returned to the crease immediately after.
"That’s a tough spot to get into, for sure. I think he had a little fun with it. But it wasn’t great for the stats," said Maurice.
Then came the big outburst by the Jets. Wheeler with his eighth of the season, Copp with his fifth and Laine with his ninth, on a breakaway deke that will be on plenty of highlight reels, put this one to bed.
"I think there are still a bunch of things in Patrik’s game that he’s going to be able to pull off as he gets stronger, as he just gets older. He can carry speed through the neutral zone. And as he gets more powerful in his stride, I think you’ll see that idea, beating a guy and then showing some speed. When he gets up to speed he’s a powerful man. As he gets older and gets stronger I think he’ll do more of that," said Maurice.
Mark Scheifele added a power-play goal early in the third period, one-timing a shot just four seconds into a Winnipeg man-advantage for his team-leading 14th of the season.
Final shots ended up 30-17 for the Jets, with Brossoit stopping all 15 shots he faced yet not being credited with a shutout due to the goal Hellebuyck gave up.
"It is what it is and we got the win," said Brossoit, who explained the equipment malfunction. "The little lace that attaches my skate to my pad just completely ripped apart. We tried to get it knotted up and get me back in there but it was a bit trickier than we thought. I thought it was all together and all done and I guess it must have just come undone."
Winnipeg will get a chance to sweep the season series when they travel to Motown for a rematch on Thursday night. Hellebuyck is expected to get the start before family and friends in his native Michigan.
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, December 10, 2019 at 9:55 PM CST: Adds photo
11:35 PM: Full write through, updates headline