By Scott Taylor
Photo by James Carey Lauder
Too bad the Winnipeg Jets decided to go on their longest winning streak of the season AFTER they were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. This team hasn’t played this well in two years.
Tuesday night in St. Louis, the Jets got a goal and an assist from Mark Scheiefele, two goals from rookie Patrik Laine and a 24-save performance from goaltender Michael Hutchinson as the Jets whipped the St. Louis Blues 5-2.
It was Winnipeg’s fifth straight win as the Jets improved to 38-35-7 on the season. The Jets are now 8-2-0 in their last 10 and with 83 points are ninth in the Western Conference. It’s the Jets’ first five-game winning streak since March of 2015 and the third since the Jets came over from Atlanta in 2011.
However, the Jets impressive numbers – granted too little, too late – go on. St. Louis was 7-0-2 in their last nine and had moved into third in the Central Division with 93 points when the Jets beat them on Tuesday. St. Louis is still 7-1-2 in its last 10 games, but with the 5-2 victory, the Jets have now outscored playoff-bound St. Louis 21-10 and are 5-0 in the five games in which they’ve played the Blues this season.
“They got off to a fast start and maybe we weren’t quite ready for the puck drop,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “We had a couple of chances in the first and then we poured it on right there at the start of the second. So we were able to turn the tide of the game at the beginning of the second.”
St. Louis notched the only goal in the first period when Alex Pietrangelo scored an unassisted goal at the 35-second mark. But it was all Jets after that. Especially early in the second period when Winnipeg scored three goals in 62 seconds.
Laine scored his 35th of the season at 1:47 from Mark Stuart and Bryan Little and then Nikolaj Ehlers made it 2-1 Winnipeg at 2:01 as Scheifele and Blake Wheeler drew the assists. Mark Stuart then scored his second of the season at 2:49 from Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry and the Jets had a 3-1 lead.
Jori Lehtera scored for St. Louis at 4:38 but there was no more scoring in the second as the Jets took a 3-2 lead into the third period.
In the third, Scheifele scored a strange goal at 4:48 as Wheeler and Ehlers drew the assists. Scheifele took a shot at an open net but Bryan Allen slid across and appeared to make a brilliant glove save. However, his glove was behind the goal line and the replay officials in Toronto awarded Scheifele a goal – his 31st of the season and his 80th point. He’s the first Jets player since the team’s arrival from Atlanta to tally 80 points in a season.
Laine rounded out the scoring with a brilliant shot from the slot at 9:02 as Perreault and Little drew assists.
Laine, the Jets outstanding rookie, now has 36 goals and 64 points, tied with Ehlers who has 24 goals and 64 points. Scheifele, meanwhile, is seventh in scoring in the NHL with 31 goals and 80 points while Wheeler is tied for 11th in scoring with 25 goals and 72 points.
Seven Jets had two points on Tuesday night. Laine had two goals, Stuart, Scheifele and Ehlers each had a goal and an assist and Perreault, Little and Wheeler each had two assists.
“It feels good,” said Laine. “I think I’ve been playing well for my last couple of games. I just didn’t get a reward yet. Now I got a pair, so I’m happy with that.”
The Jets also played well defensively. With a group of six that included Stuart, Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Jos Morrissey, Julian Melchiori and rookie Nelson Nogier, the Jets were outshot 31-26, but goaltender Hutchinson didn’t have a particularly difficult night. Nogier and Stuart were each plus three Somewhat surprisingly, the Jets are now 12-4-3 when veteran Toby Enstrom is out of the lineup.
Statistically, the Jets outhit the Blues 25-20 and won 57 per cent of the faceoffs. Newcomers Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic did not play.
The Jets play their final road game of the season on Thursday night against the red hot Blue Jackets in Columbus. Game time is 6 p.m. CDT on TSN3.