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Byfuglien’s late goal lifts Jets past Sharks

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

SAN JOSE, California Mark Scheifele just wouldn't be denied.

Neither would Blake Wheeler.

Or Dustin Byfuglien.

The trio combined for nine points as the Jets rallied from 3-1 and 4-3 deficits to defeat the San Jose Sharks 5-4 Thursday at SAP Center.

Byfuglien – who led the way with a four-point (1G, 3A) night – scored with 9.9 seconds left in the third period, firing a shot from the right point off the stick of Brent Burns in front, past Martin Jones for the dagger.

The Jets have now won three straight games for the first time this season.

“It was probably one of the faster games we’ve had to play in a while,” Byfuglien said. “We kept putting pucks and bodies at the net and we found a way to get our two points.

“It’s too late in the year to do anything about [the standings] now, but it feels good. We can go into this last game on a high note and finish the year off right.”

With another two goals tonight – his ninth straight game with one point or more – Scheifele now just one shy of the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career.

Thirty-two (17G, 15A) of his career-high 60 points have come in the last 25 games.

“It’s cool, but I’m going to continue to play the same way; continue to play the right way, and if I do that, I’ll get rewarded,” Scheifele said of the impending milestone. He’ll have one more chance to hit in the season finale, Saturday in Los Angeles.

Joe Pavelski opened the scoring with his team-leading 37th of the year at 11:16 of the first period. After the initial blast from Tomas Hertl was blocked in front, the heavily bearded Joe Thornton delivered a pass across the goalmouth, where the captain made no mistake from his backdoor post, roofing a shot over the stranded Ondrej Pavelec.

With the assist, Thornton is now 28th all-time with 1,339 career points.

The Jets evened the score with their first of two power-play goals on the night, 9:03 into the middle frame. It wasn’t pretty, but they all count. Scheifele’s attempted centering pass banked in off the foot of a defender, giving visitors a much-needed lift.

Wheeler drew the primary assist, extending his point streak to 10 straight games. With his goal later in the period, he’s now scored seven goals and 14 points in a span dating back to Mar. 20.

The Sharks got it right back and then some, scoring twice (Joe Thornton and Paul Martin) with the man advantage to take a 3-1 lead, but the Jets – just as quickly – rallied to tie it before the period was out.

It all started at 17:59. Byfuglien’s wraparound try didn’t go, but Andrew Copp was there to jam home the rebound, giving him six on the year and three in his last seven games to cut the deficit to one. Then, after a nice pass from Scheifele to spring him down the far wall, Wheeler took the puck wide, cut to the net and buried his 25th of the year to tie things up at three.

The goals came just 1:02 apart.

“It’s a bummer for us,” Wheeler, happy about the win, but disappointed with the situation, said in the jovial locker room post-game. “We’re playing some teams that are getting geared up for the playoffs or are competing for a division championship.

“It’s exciting for us to come in and try to compete against those guys, though.”

The Jets were briefly scored with a 4-3 advantage, three-and-a-half minutes into the third, but after Scheifele (who else) drove the net and potted the pill in tight, video confirmed that it was kicked in. The ‘goal’ would have given both Scheifele and Wheeler another point each, but alas…

Patrick Marleau put the home side back in front with 12:57 to play. His wrister from the bottom of the circle went off Byfuglien, Scheifele, and finally Pavelec before it dribbled in. It was a tough night for the Jets goalie, who allowed four goals on 25 shots in is final game of the season, but with the win, he’s now 4-0-2 in his last six starts.

Scheifele’s second of the night – a power-play marker – tied it at 12:02 as he put home the rebound from a Nikolaj Ehlers blast.

With the kind of night he was having, it just a matter of time.

After that, it was the Jets’ game to win.

“I think he knows I’m always looking for him,” Wheeler said of his linemate. “There’s more important things (than personal milestones) and I think he knows that, too. But if he continues to play the way he’s playing, if he approaches the game the right way, there’s no reason he shouldn’t have ample opportunity to get 30.”

– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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