Winnipeg, MB. - Not even a loud home crowd could light a fire under the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.
Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz each had a goal and an assist as the Chicago Blackhawks played like a playoff-bound hockey team in a 5-1 victory over the Jets at Bell MTS Place. It was Chicago’s fourth straight win and pushed the Hawks right back into the playoff hunt.
Chicago scored three times on their first five shots of the game at Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck and then played relentlessly in the Jets zone for the next period and a half as the once-struggling Blackhawks improved to 16-11-5 on the season and jumped into a points tie with Dallas and Minnesota (the Stars and Wild have more wins) for the first playoff wild card spot in the West.
The Jets, meanwhile, remained third in the Central Division with a record of 18-9-5. With 41 points, they are now just four points ahead of Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota in the extremely competitive Central.
On Thursday night, the Jets were completely outplayed at times by a faster, more aggressive and intense Chicago attack. Unlike Monday’s convincing win over Ottawa, the Jets had very few legitimate scoring chances until about five minutes into the third period when they played with a lot more urgency. However, by that time, Chicago led 4-0 and despite their late effort, the Jets just ran out of time.
Nikolaj Ehlers scored a power play goal for the Jets at 5:35 of the third.
Vinnie Hinostroza, Tommy Wingels and Michal Kempny with his first of the year, scored the other goals for Chicago. The Blackhawks outshot Winnipeg 30-28 – 23-14 through the first two periods. By the time the Jets made a push, this one was over.
The Jets will have a couple of days to lick their wounds before facing the high-flying St. Louis Blues in St. Louis on Saturday night. The 21-9-2 Blues are the first place team in the Central and the Jets will see them Saturday on the road and then Sunday at 5 p.m. (note the start time) back in Winnipeg. This will be an important weekend for the Jets.
Scott Taylor for The Manitoba Post
Photo by James Carey Lauder