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A decision to jump up into the play proved costly the last time the Winnipeg Jets hit the ice. On Thursday night, it helped win the game.
Defenceman Jacob Trouba picked a fine time to activate, crashing the net and jamming home a pass from Mark Scheifele with just over 12 minutes left in third period, breaking a tie in an eventual 4-3 triumph over the Boston Bruins at Bell MTS Place.
Winnipeg snapped a two-game losing streak, improving to 41-25-4 on the season. Boston lost a third straight in regulation, following a 19-game point streak, and are now 42-22-9.
It was a solid response from the Jets, who were coming off a heartbreaking 5-4 defeat to San Jose on Tuesday night. You’ll recall that an ill-advised pinch by fellow blue-liner Tyler Myers led to a Sharks odd-man rush and the game-winning goal with just over four seconds left.
Coach Paul Maurice wants his defencemen to join the rush, at least when the play allows it, and Trouba certainly made the right decision Thursday. His sixth goal of the season atoned for a blunder earlier in the period where he gave a puck away directly in front of his net, giving Boston a terrific scoring chance.
Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves for the victory and was really tested in the second period, when the Jets were under siege.
Like his team, it was an impressive bounceback from the Sharks game where he wasn’t at his best.
The No. 1 line led by example, as Blake Wheeler scored his 20th of the season just 68 seconds into the game. Patrik Laine had wired a shot off the crossbar, and Wheeler batted in the rebound. Wheeler now has eight goals in the past seven games.
Laine filled the playmaker role again later it the period, as he and Wheeler combined to set up Mark Scheifele for a power play tally at 11:24. Scheifele’s goal eclipses his previous career high of 32, set in the 2016-17 season.
That was just the kind of start the Jets were looking for, but playing with the lead against a quality opponent once again gave Winnipeg some troubles.
Defenceman Charlie McAvoy cut the deficit in half when he wired a wrist shot off the crossbar and in with just under three minutes left in the opening period. That seemed to give the Bruins some life, as they had been heavily outshot through much of the frame.
Boston really took it to Winnipeg in the second period, outshooting the Jets 19-7 and getting the tying goal at exactly the midway mark. Some sloppy defensive zone coverage, and a juicy rebound given up by Connor Hellebuyck was buried by forward Joakim Nordstrom.
The Jets did have some chances to regain the lead, particularly on a power play where Laine hit the post on two different occasions, adding to his earlier crossbar. Stuck at 29 goals, Laine can’t seem to get any luck in the scoring department right now.
However, his game is night and day compared to a prolonged slump earlier this season. Laine now has six assists in his past six games and appears to be oozing confidence when he has the puck, as demonstrated when he toe-dragged past Patrice Bergeron and hit iron in the second period. That would the same Bergeron who is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL.
After some tentative play by both teams to start the third period, Trouba scored the go-ahead goal and then Nikolaj Ehlers jumped on a giveaway a few minutes later, ripping his 18th of the year to give the Jets some breathing room.
That proved to be the game-winner when Charlie Coyle tipped a Zdeno Chara shot past Hellebuyck with just under three minutes left, setting the stage for another wild finish.
Winnipeg is now 4-4-0 during an eight-game stretch where they are playing teams that were all in playoff spots at the time the puck dropped. They’ll play a ninth straight contest Saturday when they host the Calgary Flames.
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.