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Nothing is coming easy for the Winnipeg Jets these days.
But on a night when they were far from their best, Winnipeg managed to sneak away with 3-1 win over a Carolina Hurricanes squad that gave them everything they could handle.
Bryan Little scored the winner with 2:09 left in the third period, converting a beautiful Josh Morrissey pass from the slot for his first goal of the season. Kyle Connor added an empty-netter in the final second of the game.
Winnipeg improves to 3-2-0, while Carolina loses for the first time in regulation and is now 4-1-1.
Laurent Brossoit, making his first start of the season for the Jets, stole the show. He stopped 42 of 43 shots, many of the dangerous variety, and kept his team in the game until they finally seemed to get their legs going in the final period.
Carolina came out with a clear plan to shoot the puck as much as possible, which is no surprise given that they fired 57 pucks at Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk Saturday night in St. Paul in their 5-4 overtime win.
Patrik Laine opened the scoring early in the third period, firing home a power play goal. Morrissey’s slap shot went wide, and captain Blake Wheeler picked it off the boards and fed Laine with a perfect cross-seam pass for the one-timer.
It was Laine’s second goal of the season, with both coming with the man-advantage.
Morrissey doesn’t usually get power play time, but he took the spot of regular Dustin Byfuglien who missed Sunday’s contest with an upper-body injury suffered a day earlier in practice. Dmitry Kulikov dressed in his place, playing for the first time this season.
Laine’s goal represented a quick a turn of events, as Carolina’s Jordan Staal had hit the crossbar moments earlier, then took a holding penalty perhaps out of frustration. The Jets quickly made him pay.
It was Winnipeg’s first goal is more than six full periods of play, a span of 133:53 dating back to the middle frame of their home-opener last Tuesday against Los Angeles.
Winnipeg’s lead was short-lived, however, as Micheal Ferland tied it up a few minutes later. Carolina defenceman Dougie Hamilton hit the post, and Ferland, the pride of Swan River, knocked home the loose puck.
But then Little came through in the clutch in the final moments.
Carolina was all over Winnipeg through most of the game. They took advantage of far too many Jets giveaways, which seemed to be contagious among their defencemen.
But Brossoit was there time and time again to bail out his teammates.
His highlights included stopping Sebastian Aho on a first-period breakaway and Andrei Svechnikov on a second-period solo dash. Both came as the result of egregious Winnipeg turnovers.
He was even making saves missing pieces of his equipment, as his pad came off during a goal-mouth scramble when Morrissey accidentally backed into him.
The Jets certainly seemed snake-bit as well, especially when Mark Scheifele hit the post in the opening minute of the middle frame, and then Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers couldn’t convert on a rare 2-on-0 later that period. Joe Morrow then hit the post seconds later.
After handing Nashville nine power plays in Thursday night’s 3-0 loss, the Jets were better-behaved Sunday as they took just two minors, killing of both. The Jets penalty killers have now negated 13 straight.
Sunday’s game was the start of a six-game homestand, the longest of the season for Winnipeg. It continues Tuesday night against Edmonton.
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.