ANAHEIM – As Connor Hellebuyck goes, so do the Winnipeg Jets. And so it’s not surprising that a rare off-night for the No. 1 goaltender meant a rough ride for his team, as well.
The Anaheim Ducks used an explosive second period to chase Hellebuyck from the game and skate away with a 7-4 victory over the Jets Tuesday night at Honda Center.
Winnipeg falls to 6-7-0 on the year. Anaheim improves to 8-6-0.
The Jets were kicking off a three-game road trip, looking to build off a recent run of mostly solid defensive play which included a 2-1 overtime victory over the Calgary Flames at the Heritage Classic last Saturday in Regina.
But the Ducks were able to expose some of the warts in this lineup, which only got worse when Patrik Laine was unable to play due to a lower-body injury, and Adam Lowry was forced to sit out due to a suspension.
Coach Paul Maurice dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen, which included a pair of players in Logan Shaw and Luca Sbisa playing their first-ever games for Winnipeg. That meant plenty of rotation and instability on the back-end.
Nikolaj Ehlers got the visitors off to a strong start when he scored just 55 seconds in, finishing off a great play which began with a long stretch pass from Tucker Poolman and a feed from Jack Roslovic.
After Cam Fowler tied it at the midway mark, Jets captain Blake Wheeler grabbed the lead back a couple minutes later when he buried a poor clearing attempt by Anaheim goalie John Gibson. Wheeler snapped a six-game pointless streak in the process, one of the longest of his career.
Winnipeg took the 2-1 lead into intermission, but the wheels quickly came off in the middle frame.
Ryan Getzlaf tied it just 38 seconds into the period, beating a surprised Hellebuyck with a one-timer right off a face-off draw. Hellebuyck didn’t appear ready for the shot, and it showed.
Adam Henrique gave the home team the lead at 6:38 off a nifty deflection. Ehlers replied just 42 seconds later with his second of the night and team-leading sixth of the year, this time knocking home a rebound following a Bryan Little shot.
But then Troy Terry at 8:00 on a breakaway, and Derek Grant off a deflection at 9:10 had the Jets reeling. Hellebuyck’s night was over, surrendering five goals on 19 shots and four on six shots in the second period. To put that in perspective, Hellebuyck had given up just six goals combined over his past four games entering play.
Little got the Jets back within one just over six minutes into the third period as he took a pass from Ehlers and blasted a shot past Gibson. But with the Jets pressing for the equalizer late in the frame, Carter Rowney snuck in behind Winnipeg’s defence, got a breakaway pass and beat Laurent Brossoit, who stopped seven of the eight shots he faced in relief of Hellebuyck.
Rowney fired an empty-netter with three seconds remaining to finish the scoring.
Gibson finished with 36 stops. They included nine alone on Kyle Connor, who was buzzing all night but couldn’t score.
Special teams continue to be an issue for the Jets. They went 0-for-2 on their power play, which began the night ranked 22nd in the NHL. On the bright side, Winnipeg did kill off the only penalty they took, which is an accomplishment for the league’s worst-ranked team in that department.
The road trip continues with games Friday in San Jose and Saturday in Las Vegas.
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.
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