Kyle Connor’s saucy sleight-of-hand tally was a delicious distraction from an otherwise bland and uninspiring performance from the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.
The Jets had a rapid heart rate on the power play and late in the game with goalie Connor Hellebuyck on the bench but barely produced a pulse the rest of the time, gifting the San Jose Sharks two points in a 3-2 NHL triumph for the visitors.
Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier scored 89 seconds apart in the third period to spark the Pacific Division’s seventh-place squad.
Winnipeg pushed for the equalizer the final 90 seconds at 6-on-5. Mark Scheifele had a couple of sensational scoring opportunities, including one from in tight with just over a minute left in regulation. Connor had a pair of chances late but had a shot deflected into the netting and then rattled the post with 20 seconds to go.
The Jets (29-25-5) have lost two straight games and remain a point back of the Arizona Coyotes for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Sharks forward Marcus Sorensen jammed in his sixth goal of the season on a goal-mouth frenzy with just over five minutes left in the first period to open the scoring.
Jets coach Paul Maurice challenged the scoring play, insisting Hellebuyck was harassed and spun deep into the back of the cage during the scrum. But the goal stood and Winnipeg was forced to kill a two-minute minor penalty for the lost challenge.
The rationale, according to the NHL Situation Room, was that Sorensen was making a play on a loose puck in the crease and that “in a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and attacking player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.”
The Jets had a measly three shots heading into a man-advantage situation more than six minutes into the second period, and then tripled the total with Evander Kane in the box serving an interference minor. Their seventh shot of the power play produced one of the most eye-popping tallies in Jets 2.0 history.
Stationed at the goal line near the right post, Connor took a pass from Wheeler, stepped in front, slipped the biscuit between his legs and flipped his 29th goal high to the stick side past Sharks goalie Aaron Dell.
Dell will be seeing the nasty move in his nightmares. On Monday, he was victimized in the same fashion by Calgary Flames star forward Matthew Tkachuk.
Connor’s goal cause a ripple effect, and just 86 seconds later Wheeler wired his 18th goal past to Dell after receiving a fine feed from Andrew Copp.
But the Jets couldn’t solve Dell the rest of the way. He finished with 30 saves.
Hellebuyck made 32 stops.
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).
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