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HELSINKI — The 2018 NHL Global Series will go down as a draw, but Patrik Laine sees it as a major victory for his confidence.
The Winnipeg Jets right-winger also says he has a memory bank teeming with details from a remarkable hockey journey home.
“I think overall it’s been an unreal trip. I’m going to remember every second that we spent here for the rest of my life. The atmosphere in the rink was unreal for both games, and it was a pleasure to play in front of the Finnish fans, and friends and family. It was a nice trip,” said Laine, following Winnipeg’s 4-2 loss Friday to the Florida Panthers.
A day earlier, the Jets registered a 4-2 win. Both teams left Finland with two points stowed away.
“I didn’t know (the aggregate score was tied 6-6) but now it’s annoying. The points are 2-2 and that’s pretty annoying, too. We’ll take it, I guess. We’ll decide when we are playing some games as to who actually won the trip,” said Laine, seated next to his buddy, talented Panthers centre Aleksander Barkov, during a post-game press conference.
The 20-year-old sharp-shooter was unequivocally the best player wearing Winnipeg colours during the two-game set with the Panthers in his and Barkov’s homeland.
Laine scored four goals through the first four periods, including a hat trick Thursday night and a jaw-dropper Friday — a bullet to the top corner past Roberto Luongo.
Laine, who like Barkov was raised in Tampere — about 180 kilometres from Helsinki — had just three goals in a dozen games prior to the series but now leads the team with seven goals, six of which have come on the power play.
The shot was in fine form over two games and he was dangerous five-on-five with linemates Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev, but he also carried the puck with more authority, unafraid to make plays in the offensive zone.
A 44-goal scorer during his 2017-18 sophomore season, Laine said he’s heading back to the Manitoba capital feeling good about his game.
“It will be fun. Obviously, we would have a lot more confidence if we would have won this game, but I think for me I had two pretty good games, especially this one. I created a lot of positive things in their end and obviously got the power-play goal, it was huge for us but it wasn’t enough tonight. It will be easier to go home,” said Laine, who fired six pucks at future hall-of-famer Luongo in Game 2.
Playful during interviews, Laine was quick to point out the obvious fix to his drought this week.
“It’s the clean tap water. It’s really good. It’s really refreshing and I think that was the key,” Laine said.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice was clearly happy to see the resurgence of his 6-5, 205-pound scorer.
“I think the shot (Friday) was what we see an awful lot, where most of the guys on the bench are kind of staring at each other and can’t believe how hard or how fast or how he got that shot off,” said Maurice. “He’s got such a special gift with the puck. It usually goes with a drought… the frustration level builds for him and then he gets real hot real fast.”
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).