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<p>Winnipeg Jets' Joel Armia reaches around St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo during the first period Tuesday, in St. Louis. </p>

AP PHOTO/BILL BOYCE

Winnipeg Jets' Joel Armia reaches around St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo during the first period Tuesday, in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS — Teams playing the Winnipeg Jets in the final few weeks of the NHL season should understand by now they’re not an easy mark.

Certainly not this season and not the last couple, either.

Indeed, the club has been deadly with nothing on the line. The Jets are playing loose, confident and soundly in both ends of the rink — and they continue to flash one of the league’s most potent offensive attacks.

On Tuesday night in St. Louis, Winnipeg rebounded from a sloppy opening shift by the club’s top line and pumped five goals past red-hot St. Louis goalie Jake Allen in a 5-2 triumph over the Blues at Scottrade Center.

Rookie right-winger Patrik Laine regained some of his ‘wow factor,’ scoring his 35th and 36th goals of the season for the Jets (38-35-7), who have won five straight contests.

They’ve also knocked off the Blues five times this season, outscoring them 21-10.

It’s the first time St. Louis (43-29-7) failed to register at least a point in its last 10 games.

Winnipeg Jets' goalie Michael Hutchison blocks a St. Louis Blues shot during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in St. Louis.

(AP PHOTO/BILL BOYCE)

Winnipeg Jets' goalie Michael Hutchison blocks a St. Louis Blues shot during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in St. Louis.

Laine said even though the Jets won’t participate in the NHL playoffs, hockey is fun right now for the Central Division team.

"Everybody’s just enjoying it on the ice and I think everyone’s just happy to be an NHL player every day," said Laine. "I think you can see that on the ice. You know, we don’t have any pressure anymore, so we can just go out there and have fun with each other."

St. Louis led 1-0 on a goal by Alex Pietrangelo just 35 seconds into the game, but the Jets outshot the hosts 9-4 through 20 minutes.

The Jets exploded out of the gate in the middle frame. Laine, Nik Ehlers, with his 25th, and Mark Stuart, with just his second of the season, beat Allen in a 62-second span before the period was three minutes old.

Mark Scheifele scored his 31st in the third period and Laine added his second of the game, spelling the end of the night for Allen.

Jori Lehtera also scored for St. Louis

Why now, all Jets fans are asking. Do the late victories mean much to a club that has hovered either at or below the .500 mark for large chunks of the season?

Winning, or failing to win, really counts in November when you stink out the joint in Boston, or bomb in a New Year’s Eve showdown with the Islanders or get dumped by lowly Colorado in February.

Keep in mind, the Jets will miss the post-season for the fifth time in six seasons, despite having strong but relatively meaningless finishing most of the time.

Last season, the Jets won their last four games. They picked up four of five victories down the stretch in 2014-15 to sneak into the playoffs — ultimately getting swept by the Anaheim Ducks four straight.

Going back three seasons, Winnipeg prevailed in four of its last six.

Blake Wheeler, who had a pair of assists, was asked point blank if showing signs of progress now will possibly mean anything later.

"It’s easy to shut it down when you’re out of playoff contention, but we have a group of really solid guys who still come to the rink every day excited about their jobs," said the Jets captain.

"We’re not going to raise the (Stanley) Cup this year, but, hopefully, soon down the road, we’re going to be playing games at this time of year that are really meaningful. And if you start taking your foot off the gas, it just makes bad habits and you’ll never get to where you want to be."

Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson finished the night with 24 saves and has won his last three straight starts and five of his last six.

Laine trails Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews by three goals for the NHL’s rookie goal-scoring race.

But he’s running out of time.

The Jets conclude their 2016-17 road schedule Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets (6 p.m. CT) and then return home to face the Nashville Predators on Saturday (6 p.m. CT), bringing down the curtain on another disappointing campaign.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice said it’s tough to take huge comfort in collecting points well after the expiry date on their relevance has passed.

"You still live your losses at this time of year, you don’t get to enjoy your wins," said Maurice. "We had a focus and a job to do today and we got it done."

 

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
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).