Jets quiet howling Coyotes

The Winnipeg Jets still haven’t flashed their A-game during the opening weeks of the NHL season, yet continue to stash away treasured points in the standings.

The Jets have the offensive weaponry up front and on the back end to do enough damage even when the fine details aren’t being executed to the Central Division squad’s high standards. Case in point was a 5-3 triumph over the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Saturday afternoon.

A coat of semi-gloss paint curing on a wall somewhere would have offered more drama than a drab first-period performance by the hosts. Backup goalie Laurent Brossoit played the role of saviour on a number of great chances for the Coyotes, and the teams were tied 1-1 through 20 minutes.

But there was more than enough of a power surge in the second and third periods for Winnipeg. Sparked by the first goals of the season by defenceman Tyler Myers and Josh Morrissey, the Jets grabbed a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, although a pesky Coyotes squad, led by a two-goal effort from Clayton Keller, extended the intrigue.

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The Winnipeg Jets still haven’t flashed their A-game during the opening weeks of the NHL season, yet continue to stash away treasured points in the standings.

The Jets have the offensive weaponry up front and on the back end to do enough damage even when the fine details aren’t being executed to the Central Division squad’s high standards. Case in point was a 5-3 triumph over the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Saturday afternoon.

A coat of semi-gloss paint curing on a wall somewhere would have offered more drama than a drab first-period performance by the hosts. Backup goalie Laurent Brossoit played the role of saviour on a number of great chances for the Coyotes, and the teams were tied 1-1 through 20 minutes.

But there was more than enough of a power surge in the second and third periods for Winnipeg. Sparked by the first goals of the season by defenceman Tyler Myers and Josh Morrissey, the Jets grabbed a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, although a pesky Coyotes squad, led by a two-goal effort from Clayton Keller, extended the intrigue.

Blake Wheeler, who scored an empty-netter with 42 seconds left to seal the win, said his squad is still battling to lay down a consistent, responsible 60-minute effort.

“We’re grinding away. We’re still kind of searching for that identity, that A-game. I think we’re getting better every game. We started to get a bit more physical and I think that helped us,” said the Winnipeg captain. “But (the Coyotes) are hungry. They play a frustrating game if you’re trying to make plays through the neutral zone. We tried to do a little bit too much of that and they capitalized on some chances and kept it a close game.

“For the most part you just stick with it and keep grinding. There’s certainly a level of frustration, I think, for everyone. It is a grind right now, but this is the NHL, the best league in the world. If we thought we were going to come in and thought it would be easy, that’s not the way this works. I think we’re sticking with it through the frustration, through the grind right now. I think that’s a real positive. We’re trying to figure out what we are, what we do well. We’ll get there. We’re just not there yet.”

Brossoit stopped 42 shots for his second win in as many starts.

Soundly outshot in the opening period (16-6), Winnipeg was tagged with a pair of defensive-zone stick infractions but managed to erase both Arizona power-play chances. They didn’t escape unblemished though, surrendering Christian Fischer’s first goal of the season at 5-on-5 with about four minutes left.

Laurent Brossoit stopped 42 shots for his second win in as many starts. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

CP

Laurent Brossoit stopped 42 shots for his second win in as many starts. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

The Jets went nearly 14 minutes between their second and third shots of the period. Their sixth went in to knot the game 1-1, a deft deflection past Arizona goalie Antti Raanta by unlikely sniper Adam Lowry, who shares the team goal-scoring lead of four with top-line left-winger Kyle Connor.

Lowry, a fifth-year centre, scored just eight goals during an injury-plagued 2017-18 season going and played 32 games — including 17 in the playoffs — without scoring.

Myers roofed a shot from a difficult angle behind goalie Antti Raanta with 5:32 left in the second period to record his first point of the season and snap a 1-1 tie. Trouba orchestrated the play, demonstrating great patience at the blue line and drawing in a pair of defenders before feeding Myers near the wall.

Winnipeg struck on the power play before the period expired as Morrissey slipped into the slot and one-timed a feed from Mark Scheifele for his first goal of the year and a 3-1 Jets advantage.

Morrissey replaced Dustin Byfuglien on the Jets first power-play unit and looked liked a seasoned quarterback.

“The way (Morrissey) moves as a left (defenceman), he gets over well enough that he can still make the pass. It’s an easier pass once he turns the corner to give it to Patty (Laine) than it is for Dustin Byfuglien, based on their hands. But you really have to be able to move well to do that, and he moves very well,” said Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice. “It’s a good balance, we’ll flip them back and forth.”

Morrissey, 23, continues to demonstrate he’s no longer just a quick study, he’s a bona fide leader, logging another 22 minutes of ice time on the shut-down pairing with Trouba while showing his creative side.

“I think I’ve been happy with the work I’ve put in the off-season. I think some of those things are starting to feel pretty good, but it’s a long season, it’s a grinding season and there’s really good players in this league,” he said. “You constantly have to be on your toes and trying to improve because if you’re not doing that and you’re complacent you’re probably in trouble.”

While the Jets second power-play unit was held off the board, it buzzed for nearly 90 seconds on one opportunity in the middle frame. Huge hits by Lowry and Byfuglien also shifted the momentum.

Coyotes forward Josh Archibald took a solid check from Byfuglien midway through the second period and left the game after appearing unsteady on his feet. He returned in the final period.

Jack Roslovic congratulates Mathieu Perreault after he scored his first goal of the season. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

Jack Roslovic congratulates Mathieu Perreault after he scored his first goal of the season. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg’s fourth line, which had a solid outing Thursday against Vancouver, was justly rewarded when veteran forward Mathieu Perreault also fired his first goal of the season for the Jets in the final period on a setup from Jacob Trouba, his third helper of the game.

“I just came around and they were all packed in the middle and (Perreault) found a nice soft area in the slot and I just gave him the puck,” said Trouba, adding a mix of scoring has served the team well during the home stand.

“You want see everyone jump in and get in there. It’s great to see a lot of names on the scoresheet. We definitely have the capability to get in on the offence on the back end a little bit, so it’s good to see.”

Winnipeg was perfect on the penalty kill, erasing four chances by Arizona (2-5-0).

Coyotes defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had three assists.

The Jets have been granted a complete day of rest Sunday but are back on the ice Monday for a morning skate, hours before they host the St. Louis Blues at 7 p.m.

Winnipeg (5-2-1) has three victories and an overtime defeat in its first four contests of a six-game stretch at Bell MTS Place.

The team wraps up its homestand Wednesday when Auston Matthews, John Tavares and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs pay a visit.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
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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