WINNIPEG, MB – It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly didn’t lack error, but the Winnipeg Jets managed to walk away from Bell MTS Place with two points on Tuesday evening. Taking on the NHL-worst Arizona Coyotes, Winnipeg looked disorganized at best, struggling with the simplicities that the Central Division leaders usually demonstrate nightly.
Although starting the game on the right note with an early strike, the Jets seemed unable to find any consistency, giving up uncharacteristically weak goals, and failing to build off of any gained momentum upon many occasions throughout the game. Luckily for the hometown fans, the boys in blue were able to hold on long enough to grab the 4-3 victory.
It took the Jets all of 30 seconds to find the twine for the opening goal of the game. In making good on a phenomenal Toby Enstrom cross-ice pass, recent AHL call-up Jack Roslovic took his time before wiring a wrist shot top shelf past Antti Raanta, giving Winnipeg a very early lead.
However, that edge would only last four minutes, as a Kevin Connauton Arizona point shot trickled its way through Connor Hellebuyck and just past the Winnipeg goal line, knotting the game up at ones, less than five minutes into the first period.
Shortly thereafter, Jets’ defenceman Dustin Byfuglien – who skated in his 800th career NHL game Tuesday – displayed a tremendous level of hand-eye coordination, in showing off his baseball skills by batting a Bryan Little rebound into the cage, waiting until the puck dropped below the crossbar to ensure the goal would stand.
Following a brief video review delay, referees Chris Rooney, Tim Peel and their staff determined that Byfuglien’s marker was indeed a good hockey goal, and the home team once again found themselves up on top of the visitors by a goal.
Earlier in the day, Head Coach Paul Maurice announced that Winnipeg would lace a fourth line consisting of Marko Dano and additional call-ups Nic Petan and Brendan Lemieux. It only took that fourth line three shifts to find the twine.
Capitalizing on a Josh Archibald broken stick, Lemieux, Dano, Ben Chiarot and Petan teamed up for Petan’s first of the season – a heads up redirection play, stemming from a low, hard Chiarot point shot; Dano picked up the secondary assist on Petan’s marker.
But just moments later – with Lemieux in the sin bin for cross-checking – the Coyotes answered back once again, with another five-hole strike – this time by sophomore centreman Christian Dvorak.
Following a low-shooting, high-scoring first period, the Winnipeg Jets remained atop the visiting Arizona Coyotes 3-2, in a five-goal first period that only saw 18 total shots between the two competitors.
The Jets and Coyotes slowed things down with a one-goal second period, as Winnipeg’s Dmitry Kulikov scored the only goal of the frame on a great set-up pass from winger Kyle Connor.
Although stopping 12 of Arizona’s 14 total shots through two periods, Winnipeg netminder Connor Hellebuyck looked slightly off his game Tuesday night. Giving the puck away to the opposition for quality scoring chances is usually not a part of the 24-year-old’s game, nor are dribbler five-hole goals.
Unfortunately for Winnipeg, that theme carried forward into the early stages of the third period, as yet another point shot deflection found its way past Hellebuyck less than one minute into the final frame, bringing the Coyotes within one goal of the Jets. Luckily, the Jets’ last line of defence was able to step up his game in the remaining minutes of the third period and nail down his 28th victory of the season.
Surprisingly, Winnipeg’s power play struggled on the evening, going 0 for 4 while looking slightly disjointed. Despite a valiant third period effort, Arizona’s comeback fell short, as the Jets held on for the 4-3 win.
Following Tuesday’s victory, the Winnipeg Jets will continue their franchise-record 10 game homestand with game five against St. Louis Friday night. The Jets will have Saturday night off, before playing host to the struggling New York Rangers on Sunday afternoon.
Carter Brooks, Manitoba Post