OTTAWA — Mark Scheifele’s action emphatically stated enough was enough Thursday night.
Winnipeg’s top centre put the brakes to a scoring skid that had reached a dozen games, netting a pair of first-period goals and then completing the hat trick in the final frame to power the Jets to a 5-1 triumph over the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.
Even as the visitors looked sluggish for more than half the opening period, Scheifele was the lone non-conformist, moving with speed and purpose for the second straight game. Scoring on consecutive power-play chances within a 71-second span and then adding a late tally with the man advantage, Scheifele now has 26 goals on the season, the fourth time in seven seasons he’s reached the 25-goal mark.
Special teams played a big role as the Jets went 3-for-6 with the man advantage, while snuffing out four power-play chances for the Senators.
It was no secret Scheifele, 26, has been battling a flu bug for more than a week, but he was a more reasonable facsimile of himself in a two-assist performance in a victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
Forty-eight hours later in the nation’s capital, he was the catalyst for an offensive turnaround by the Jets, who surrendered the opening goal for the sixth time in as many outings.
While Scheifele’s had all kinds of misfortune on golden scoring opportunities lately, he was lethal as the Jets earned two valuable points to vault into the top wild-card spot in the NHL’s Western Conference, one point ahead of the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes.
"It’s always nice to score. I’ve been definitely getting the chances, so it’s nice to pop one in. But it was a big team win for us and a good start to the road trip," said Scheifele, who ripped his first hat trick since Nov. 2, 2018 against the Dallas Stars.
Had the drought weighed heavily on his mind?
"Not at all, really. It’s not about goals, it’s not about assists. It’s about playing the right game. You get your chances. You watch your games over, so you know what to fix, you know what to work on, and that’s what it’s all about. You continue to work on your game whether you’re scoring or not," he said.
"The main focus is winning games here and if it’s taking a hit or doing whatever, that’s what we need down the stretch."
Winnipeg (32-25-5) was dominant in the final 40 minutes to record its third win in a row, and has gone 7-2-1 since faltering at the end of January with five straight defeats. The Senators (21-29-11) had a two-game win streak snapped.
Patrik Laine drew assists on two of Scheifele’s goals on netminder Marcus Hogberg, one coming on a shot to the top shelf at 16:35 of the opening period and the other on a nifty deflection at 17:46 for a 2-1 lead. That was only the beginning for the Central Division squad, which generated the majority of the game’s dangerous scoring opportunties.
Kyle Connor swiped in a rebound for his team-leading 30th goal of the season just five minutes into the middle frame and Nikolaj Ehlers poked in a loose puck just over a minute later. Scheifele helped orchestrate Ehlers’ 22nd goal, picking up his 39th assist.
That’s three straight 30-goal seasons for Connor, the Michigan product, who still has 20 games left to push for 40. But in his post-game chat he was more comfortable talking about the Jets’ alternate captain.
"(Scheifele) has had so many chances, it was just a matter of time. It’s good to get him going. He’s a leader and one of our best players. It was good to see him get a third one, too," said Connor.
"Honestly, I didn’t think his game changed too much. He still had such an impact on the game. It just wasn’t going his way. A couple of bounces around the net. He still dominates teams out there and picks up points out there with assists."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice heaped praise — in a rather oddball way — on Dylan DeMelo, the club’s newest defenceman, who was paired with Nathan Beaulieu.
"If you didn’t like that game then we’re not going to be able to agree on anything. His stick so many times knocked pucks down, his passes were on the tape. That was a pure, what would you call it? Coach’s porn? When you’re watching it hockey video, that’s pretty darn good," said Maurice. "It’s not flashy but his consistency with his stick, his reads and then his passes — the ones he needed to snap hard, he did. The ones he could feather, he did. That was a real complete, quiet game that coaches love."
Scheifele added his third goal with 1:33 left in the game.
Earlier in the period, he got sprayed with water by Scott Sabourin, who was on the bench. The Sens’ forward received a 10-minute misconduct for the move.
"I don’t really care. It’s kind of stupid. It doesn’t really bother me. If it got in my face, I might have been a little more mad," said Scheifele.
Ottawa forward Nick Paul scored his eighth goal of the season off a faceoff 11:50 into the game. Goalie Laurent Brossoit was sound the rest of the way, finishing with 29 saves to up his record to 6-7-0.
Maurice indicated an extra day of rest could prepare No. 1 netminder Connor Hellebuyck for back-to-back afternoon games this weekend. The Jets meet the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at noon and will take on the Sabres in Buffalo on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Rookie Jets winger Jansen Harkins got into the first scrap of his young career, earning a draw with Drake Batherson in the first period. Late in the game, Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman got into a short tussle with Brady Tkachuk after Poolman decked the Senators forward with a solid hit.
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 Thursday, February 20, 2020 at 9:29 PM CST: Adds photos
11:04 PM: Re-adds photos
11:29 PM: Final version