WINNIPEG, MB - Good thing Patrik Laine thinks Winnipeg is “good.” The Jets might be writing a different story if they happened to be playing against him.
Laine, the 19-year-old superstar who made it clear recently, with public comments that, “Winnipeg is good,” scored a pair of impressive goals to lead the Jets past the visiting Detroit Red Wings 4-3 on Friday night.
His first goal, in the first period, was a frozen rope over the left shoulder of Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. The second, in the second period, was another laser, this time over Howard’s left shoulder that turned out to be the winning goal.
They were Laine’s 32nd and 33rd goals of the season. The gifted Finnish teenager now has 69 goals in his first two seasons in the NHL and he doesn’t turn 20 until April 19.
Meanwhile, this was a huge win for Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck who had a tough night on Tuesday, in a 6-5 loss to Nashville.
“It (winning the bounce-back game) means a lot,” said Hellebuyck. “We had the crowd in it tonight and that was fun. I was glad I could be part of this win. The Wings have a very good team. I know a couple of them personally and they’re very good players. I knew they were going to give us a game and they did, right until the end.
“The fans were having a blast and I’m pretty happy with the result.”
With the win, the Jets improved to 37-17-9 on the season, second in the Central Division, four points back of first-place Nashville. Winnipeg, which has won six of its last eight games, is now 24-7-2 at home this season.
Detroit opened the scoring on Niklas Kronwall’s third of the season (on the power-play), but then Laine (32), Ben Chiarot with his first and Dustin Byfuglien with his fifth, made it 3-1 Winnipeg early in the second.
Anthony Mantha scored his 21st to make it 3-2 and then Laine (33) connected midway through the second to make it 4-2 after 40. The Jets outshot Detroit 19-5 in the second period.
In the third, Detroit’s Trevor Daley made it 4-3 with his eighth of the season, but the Jets pressed relentlessly down the stretch and Connor Hellebuyck made a couple of big saves as the Jets held on to record their 85th point of the season.
Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien (3), Josh Morrissey (2) and Laine (1) were the three stars. Jimmy Howard, who faced 42 shots should have been given a little consideration.
The Jets outshot Detroit 42-33 as Hellebuyck improved to 33-10-8 on the season. It was an odd game in the sense that Detroit outshot Winnipeg 17-12 in the first period and yet trailed 2-1 after 20 minutes. The Jets controlled the second as the puck seldom left the Red Wings end. And then both teams had 11 shots in the third.
The Jets owned the faceoff circle, winning 62 per cent of the puck drops. Byfuglien led all Jets in icetime, drawing 24 minutes and 55 seconds. The Jets had 13 players who were plus one and three players (Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele) who were minus one.
The Jets were zero-for-three on the power play while Detroit was one-for-one.
The Jets will now head out on a six-game road trip through Raleigh (Sunday), Manhattan (Tuesday), Newark (Thursday), Philadelphia (Saturday), Washington (Monday, the 12th) and Nashville (Tuesday the 13th). This trip could ultimately determine the Jets playoff seed.
The first game of the six-game, 11-day journey goes on Sunday at 6 p.m. (CST) in Raleigh, N.C. against the Carolina Hurricanes. It can be seen on SportsNet.
Scott Taylor, Manitoba Post
Photo by James Carey Lauder