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CHICAGO – It wasn’t very pretty. It was far from perfect. But it definitely served a purpose.
The Winnipeg Jets snapped a three-game losing streak – and avoided falling into a three-way tie for the Central Division lead – with a much-needed 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Monday night at the United Center.
Kevin Hayes was the hero, scoring the winner in overtime. Jack Roslovic had a pair of goals on the fourth line, while shutdown centre Adam Lowry had the other tally.
Winnipeg improves to 46-29-4 and remain on top of the Central Division, two points ahead of idle Nashville and St. Louis, which beat Colorado Monday night in a shootout. All three teams have three games remaining, and the Jets own the tiebreakers over both by having more regulation and overtime wins. They also won the season series against both clubs.
The Jets had played three straight stinkers in a row – a lacklustre loss to Dallas, a late-game meltdown against the New York Islanders and a mail-it-in effort against Montreal – and were in desperate search of a better effort.
They got it against a Blackhawks club that began the night fighting for their playoff lives.
It didn’t start off so well, as Winnipegger Jonathan Toews opened the scoring just 4:25 into the game with his team on the power play. His shot deflected off Jacob Trouba and past Hellebuyck, giving Toews a career-high 77 points on the season. He later added an assist to get up to 78.
Lowry evened it up just past the midway mark, as his wrist shot from a bit of an odd angle beat Corey Crawford up high. Lowry now has 12 goals on the year, including three in the past three games.
Roslovic gave the visitors the lead with just 34 seconds left in the first period, banking a shot in off Crawford for his eighth of the year. It’s the first goal for Roslovic since he had a hat trick against Anaheim way back on Feb. 2, a span of 22 games where he didn’t score and another three where he was a healthy scratch.
Roslovic struck again just over five minutes into the middle frame, finishing off a three-way passing play with linemates Andrew Copp and Mathieu Perreault.
Dylan Strome made it a one-goal game just over a minute after Roslovic scored. Jets defenceman Nathan Beaulieu misplayed a puck and gave Strome a clear path to the net, where he beat Hellebuyck.
Winnipeg appeared to make it 4-2 with exactly three minutes left as Mark Scheifele scored, but Chicago successfully challenged that Blake Wheeler had gone offside seconds earlier. It was a tough night for Scheifele, who also missed on a penalty shot earlier in the game after Toews slashed him on a breakaway.
And that turned out to be a huge development, as Strome scored his second of the night with just 2:20 remaining and Crawford pulled for an extra attacker.
The goal at least saved Chicago’s season for another night, as they avoided being eliminated from playoff contention by getting the game to overtime. But they’ll need to win their last three and get all kinds of help to avoid being on the outside looking in for a second straight spring.
It was a wild overtime, with both Roslovic and Laine being stopped on breakaways before Hayes won it.
The Jets continue the road trip Tuesday night in St. Paul against the Minnesota Wild, whose playoff chances are also hanging by a thread and need to win out to have any hope. Then it’s on to Denver and Glendale for games against Colorado and Arizona to wrap up the regular season.
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.