Wheeler buries Avalanche
Captain notches five points as Jets return to ice
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.