Wheeler buries Avalanche

Cap­tain notches five points as Jets re­turn to ice

Winnipeg Free Press - - SPORTS - Mike.mcintyre@freep­ress.mb.ca Twit­ter: @mikem­cin­tyrewpg

for the game-win­ner early in the third, set up Pa­trik Laine’s power-play tally a few min­utes later then sealed the vic­tory with an empty-net­ter of his own.

“Well, the weapons we have are pretty spe­cial. I’m the guy get­ting them the puck. They make the passer look good,” Wheeler said fol­low­ing the game.

“You come into games like this, di­vi­sional op­po­nent at home, and your mind­set is to find a way to get a way to get a win. You’re not so much think­ing about of­fence or how you’re go­ing to score goals or make plays, you want to win. These games are so im­por­tant. And they add up quick to­wards the end of the year.” strong five-man game against them.”

Con­nor Helle­buyck wasn’t tested a ton, but the Jets goal­tender was sharp when needed in turn­ing aside 28 shots.

Ran­ta­nen, cur­rently the NHL’s lead­ing scorer, did ring a shot off the cross­bar on a sec­ond pe­riod power play but that’s as close as he and his line­mates would come on the night. Win­nipeg went a per­fect four-for-four on the penalty kill, while go­ing two-for­four on their own power plays.

Con­nor needed just eight sec­onds to score on his team’s first man­ad­van­tage, knock­ing a loose puck past Se­myon Var­lamov for his sev­enth of the year. That makes 11 straight games the Jets have scored a power-play goal, game.

But the Jets stormed back when Wheeler fed Laine from his usual spot on the power play, as the Fin­nish sniper scored his team-lead­ing eighth of the year — and fifth in his past three games. This time, it took the power play just seven sec­onds to strike.

“The guys that shoot like Scheif and Patty are in­cred­i­bly rare. And you stack them up on one power play, it’s re­ally hard to stop that. It’s re­ally hard to take away both guys. So I think we’re just try­ing to move it quick,” Wheeler said of the now No. 1-ranked power-play unit in the NHL, which is click­ing at a 34.8 per cent suc­cess rate through 15 games.

Wheeler showed he can score, too, when he hit an empty net with less than two min­utes to play for his third of the year.

Wheeler’s four as­sists give him 18 on the year, sec­ond-best in the NHL. He’s got 14 in his past seven games and ex­tended his point streak to nine games (two goals, 15 as­sists).

“He’s one of the best passers in the game right now and tonight the guys were just putting it in. You can think of countless times where he sets up guys for back-door tap-ins, 10 a night, and guys just don’t bury. Tonight was one of those nights where guys buried on half of them… he’s a spe­cial player and I’m pretty lucky to have him on my wing,” said Scheifele.

Win­nipeg is 15-1-1 in their past 17 reg­u­lar-sea­son games at home dat­ing back to last sea­son. They’ll con­tinue a four-game home­s­tand by host­ing New Jersey on Sun­day evening, fol­lowed by vis­its next week from Wash­ing­ton and Buf­falo.

De­fence­man Dmitry Ku­likov was in­jured late in the first pe­riod af­ter tak­ing a hard hit from Colorado’s Gabriel Bourque. He went im­me­di­ately to the dress­ing room, favour­ing ei­ther a shoul­der or arm, and did not re­turn.

“I’ve got noth­ing for you right now. He couldn’t re­turn. It might be pre­cau­tion­ary. We’ll get it tested out (Satur­day),” Mau­rice said fol­low­ing the game.

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