Nobody was calling it a “must-win.” But the Winnipeg Jets certainly came out playing like it was, downing the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 Tuesday night at Bell MTS Place.
The victory snaps a six-game losing streak on home ice and vaults them back into a Western Conference wildcard playoff spot. Winnipeg improves to 25-18-4. That’s the same record as Vancouver, which came into the game having won nine of their past 11.
It turns out a visit from the streaking Canucks was just what the doctor ordered for the slumping Jets. They’ve now won 10 straight games over their west coast neighbours spanning four seasons, outscoring them 35-10 in the process.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 40 shots he faced for his league-leading fourth shutout of the season. He also had plenty of help from his posts on the night, as Vancouver rang iron on multiple occassions.
It was an eventful, one-sided start to the game. Mark Scheifele banked the puck off Brock Boeser and into the net on his opening shift, but it was waved off as replays showed it actually entered through the side, with the net coming off the pegs into the air.
No matter, as Kyle Connor scored one that would count exactly four seconds later. Right off the draw, Patrik Laine fed Sami Niku, who hit Connor with a perfect pass in the slot. Connor ripped his team-leading 23rd of the season at 1:22.
Winnipeg looked to have taken a 2-0 lead just 33 seconds later, as defenceman Anthony Bitetto’s point shot squeaked through the pads of Jacob Markstrom. However, the goal was overturned on a successful Vancouver offside challenge, denying Bitetto the third goal of his NHL career in his 169th game.
It’s also the fourth time a Jets goal has been called back this season by an offside. Patrik Laine, with two, and Carl Dahlstrom have been the others.
If you’re keeping track, Winnipeg put three pucks into the Vancouver net in a span of 37 seconds — but only had one goal to show for it.
Jack Roslovic legitimately made it 2-0 at 14:24 of the first period, taking a breakaway pass from Adam Lowry and beating Markstrom. It was the eighth of the season for Roslovic, and first in 13 games. He was bumped down to play on the third line with Lowry and Mathieu Perreault, and it immediately paid off.
Blake Wheeler made it 3-0 at 1:12 of the second period with the Jets on a power play. He was actually trying to pass the puck to Connor in front of the net, but Connor instead used himself as a screen and it went straight through and into the net. Wheeler is up to 15 goals this season.
Vancouver had plenty of chances to score, including four power plays, but Hellebuyck and his teammates were able to kill them off.
Connor added his second of the game, 24th of the year, into an empty-net late in the third period.
Coach Paul Maurice had to do some last-minute lineup juggling, as defenceman Dmitry Kulikov was a late scratch with an apparent injury. Dahlstrom drew back into the lineup. Winnipeg is already without Tucker Poolman and Nathan Beaulieu due to injuries.
However, Dahlstrom’s night was cut short as he suffered an upper-body injury late in the second period and didn’t return.
The Jets will conclude the three-game homestand on Friday against Tampa Bay, then hit the road for three games in four nights prior to a week-long break which includes the All-Star game.
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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