Sabres sharper in shootout

Laurent Brossoit did nearly everything that was asked of him and more Friday night.

But the Winnipeg Jets goaltender surrendered the deciding goal of an extended shootout as the Buffalo Sabres posted a 2-1 victory at Bell MTS Place.

Conor Sheary ripped a shot past Brossoit in the seventh round to hand the Sabres (11-6-2) their fourth straight victory. The Jets (11-5-2) had to settle for a single point to finish off a four-game homestand with a 3-0-1 record.

Winnipeg’s backup hadn’t played since Oct. 26 but there was no sign of rust buildup. Brossoit blocked 31 shots, including thwarting Sabres star centre Jack Eichel on a breakaway late in the five-minute overtime session.

Eichel, Jason Pominville and Sheary beat him in the shootout, while Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor fired pucks past Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton in the breakaway challenge.

Brossoit, who has three victories and the shootout loss (1.47 goals-against average and .958 save percentage) in rare duty behind No. 1 puckstopper Connor Hellebuyck this season, said he doesn’t care for the NHL’s game-ending format.

“I don’t think any goalie’s a fan of them. You’re either going to be a hero or it’s a sour loss,” he said. “It is what it is.

“You come into a game and you do your scouting report and there’s usually the first three guys that always will be in (the shootout) and they have their tendancies. But I don’t want to over-scout and over-anticipate guys.”

Laine nearly ended it late in regulation time when he jumped on a giveaway by ex-Jets blue-liner Zach Bogosian with less than five seconds left and whipped a quick shot that eluded Hutton but struck the post. It was one of several shots that hit iron during the game.

Hutton was dynamite with a 25-save performance, including several jaw-droppers. He had no chance on Connor’s eighth goal of the season in the second period.

Jeff Skinner’s power-play marker less than a minute into the final frame knotted the game 1-1.

Overall, it was a relatively sound effort for the Jets, although their up-tempo start to the game — they outshot Buffalo 12-4 in a scoreless first period — was almost overshadowed by a strange nearly 17-minute lull without a shot on net through the latter half of the second period and into the third.

“Good start for us, I didn’t have to do anything in the first period, four shots I think, so that was nice, they let me ease into it,” said Brossoit. “I thought we carried the play most of the way and they potted one and it gave them a bit of a surge, some momentum. We weathered the storm and then both teams played good defence.”

Despite the inability to generate offence, there was no real panic percolating in the Jets’ game.

“We were playing our game and maybe they did a good job blocking them and we weren’t hitting the net, either,” said Connor.

Brandon Tanev got nabbed for holding late in the second period and the Sabres cashed in early in the third. The Jets had erased 12 straight short-handed situations on the homestand until Skinner’s equalizer 53 seconds in. Eichel’s blast was blocked by Brossoit but the former Carolina Hurricanes star banged away at the rebound and flipped in his 14th of the season.

Skinner has scored in four straight games, and only Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak (17) has more goals this season.

The Jets’ takeoff was one of their smoothest in the last few weeks as the hosts stormed the Buffalo zone and generated a couple of terrific scoring chances, including a redirection in tight by centre Mark Scheifele. Winnipeg outshot its visitors 12-4 through 20 minutes but Hutton yielded nothing.

Their quick feet and dogged puck retrieval produced more opportunities early in the second period, including heavy shots by Nikolaj Ehlers and Ben Chiarot that dinged off Hutton’s mask and a blast off the crossbar by Dustin Byfuglien.

Finally, Laine and Connor darted away on a two-on-one break —generated off an errant pass by Buffalo winger Tage Thompson — and the Finnish sniper reverted to playmaker with a slick pass to set up Connor’s eighth goal of the year at 7:10.

The assist was Laine’s first five-on-five point since he registered a helper in the season-opener. Centre Bryan Little was credited with an assist when he blocked Thompson’s pass.

Connor didn’t simply assume Laine would be the trigger-man.

“He obviously has a great shot but he’s done that so many times in practice. Goalies think he’s going to shoot and he slides it under (the blue-liner’s) stick. He made that pass and it was pretty open net there,” he said. “He did all the work there. It was a good pass.”

Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler’s 11-game point streak (2G, 18A) came to an end, while Mark Scheifele had a three-game scoring streak snapped.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice heaped plenty of praise on the Little-Laine-Connor trio.

“I like that line. I liked Patty’s game an awful lot. There was a little bit of physicality, some directness, he cracked a post or two. So those were good signs for him,” said Maurice.

“I think over the last two games… Kyle Connor’s been the best player on the ice for me. He’s just been fantastic. There’s some chemistry on that line. I like it a lot.”

After Connor’s goal, the Sarbes mounted a reactionary assault, firing 10 shots without reward. Brossoit made a number of key saves, yet nearly undid all his good work when he came out to handle the puck and inadvertenly bounced it off the outside of his own post, eliciting a collective gasp from the crowd.

“It was a set play (to laughter from reporters). I bounce it off the side of the net and then (Morrissey) can take it from there. They’re not going to expect something like that,” he said, grinning.

By taking seven of eight points this week, Winnipeg is now 8-1-2 at the downtown rink this season and 17-1-2 in their past 20 regular-season games dating back to last season.

“It was a really good homestand. I thought we really started to play our game and we got contributions from everybody up and down the lineup. I thought it was a full team effort throughout those four games,” said Connor.

The Jets play Monday night in Vancouver against the Canucks, then meet the Calgary Flames on Wednesday before travelling to Minnesota to play the Wild in a Black Friday afternoon tilt. They finish up Saturday night against the host Blues in St. Louis.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @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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