Wheeler rolls for Win­nipeg in vic­tory over Avs

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports -

WIN­NIPEG — Blake Wheeler took a pass on soak­ing up praise af­ter his ca­reer-high five-point per­for­mance on Fri­day.

The Win­nipeg Jets cap­tain scored an empty-net goal and added four as­sists in a 5-2 vic­tory over the Colorado Avalanche, who have lost five straight.

Mark Scheifele, Pa­trik Laine, Kyle Con­nor and Niko­laj Eh­lers also scored. Scheifele had a pair of as­sists.

“When you’re pass­ing it to guys like that, it gives you a level of con­fi­dence that kind of changes how you move the puck,” Wheeler said. “If you were pass­ing to some­body that doesn’t have a prayer of putting it in the net, it’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent than giv­ing it to (Mark) Scheifele or (Pa­trik) Laine.

“No doubt those guys give me a ton of con­fi­dence to find those lit­tle seams. And like I said, they need such lit­tle space. If I can just squeeze it in there, there’s a good chance it’s go­ing in.”

Wheeler, who had three pri­mary as­sists, ex­tended his point streak to nine games (two goals, 15 as­sists). His 18 as­sists this sea­son are one be­hind Colorado’s Mikko Ran­ta­nen.

Laine and Con­nor each scored on the power play, giv­ing the Jets (9-5-1) at least one power-play goal in 11 straight games to add to a fran­chise-record roll.

De­fence­man Erik John­son scored his first goal of the sea­son and Tyson Jost notched his sec­ond for the Avalanche (7-6-3), who are (0-4-1) dur­ing their los­ing skid.

“I think lead­ers on this team gotta get on this now,” John­son said. “We gotta stop the bleed­ing and string some wins to­gether here.”

Con­nor Helle­buyck made 28 saves for the Jets. They con­tinue a four-game home­s­tand Sun­day against New Jer­sey.

Jets de­fence­man Josh Mor­ris­sey said he and Wheeler some­times drive to games to­gether. He had an inkling the cap­tain might siz­zle af­ter the team’s break fol­low­ing their trip to Fin­land.

“I just had a feel­ing,” said Mor­ris­sey, who picked up one as­sist. “He’s been re­ally on it the last few days in prac­tice.”

Se­myon Var­lamov stopped 19 shots for Colorado, which heads to Ed­mon­ton for a Sun­day game against the Oil­ers.

“It’s al­ways hard to start the games when you’re down like one or two goals,” Var­lamov said. “But it doesn’t mat­ter even if you’re down, like it’s only one or two goals. You know, I mean we have enough skill on this team to score like five.”

The Jets shut down Colorado’s po­tent top line of Nathan MacK­in­non, Gabriel Lan­deskog and Ran­ta­nen.

“Ob­vi­ously there are some elite play­ers on that line and they’re hot right now and they’re feel­ing it,” Mor­ris­sey said. “I thought we did a good job of not giv­ing them a ton of odd-man rushes.

Win­nipeg led 2-0 af­ter the first pe­riod and held that mar­gin fol­low­ing the sec­ond.

Con­nor scored eight sec­onds af­ter Avs de­fence­man Pa­trik Nemeth went to the penalty box for de­lay of game at 10:08 of the first. The back­hand shot of a loose puck gave Con­nor seven goals.

Scheifele took a pass from Wheeler at the bot­tom of the cir­cle and sent a one-timer past Var­lamov to make it 2-0 at 13:32, match­ing Con­nor’s seven goals.

The third pe­riod had the Avs get­ting to within one goal a cou­ple of times, but both teams had quick re­sponses.

John­son got the Avalanche of the board 2:26 into the third, but Eh­lers re­gained the two-goal lead just over three min­utes later af­ter Wheeler threaded a pass to him at the side of the net and he flipped a back­hand shot into an open side of the net. It marked Wheeler’s 400th ca­reer as­sist.

Win­nipeg’s ad­van­tage was cut to 3-2 just 70 sec­onds later with Jost’s goal, but Laine scored at 10:43 to make it 4-2 and Wheeler added the empty-net­ter with 1:26 re­main­ing.

CP PHOTO

From left, Kyle Con­nor, Pa­trik Laine, Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien cel­e­brate Laine’s goal against Colorado Avalanche goal­tender Se­myon Var­lamov dur­ing the third pe­riod of Fri­day’s game in Win­nipeg.

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