WINNIPEG - They knew it wasn't going to be easy, and got exactly what they expected.
However, the Winnipeg Jets also got the result they wanted.
The final score at Bell MTS Place read 2-1 in favour of the Jets over the Carolina Hurricanes, and Blake Wheeler said the team came in mentally prepared for a tight-checking 60 minutes.
"Carolina is one of the tougher teams to play - just great sticks, no room all over the ice. Paul did a great job preparing us for that, and showing us what they do well," said Wheeler. "Through two periods we had 10 shots, and everybody was comfortable.
"There was no panic, there was nobody trying to do their own thing, and try to create offence out of nowhere."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
The offence did come though. After killing off a penalty, the Winnipeg Jets opened the scoring. Patrik Laine left the puck for Ehlers on the right wing, and Ehlers slid a nifty feed to Bryan Little and the top of the circle. Little wasted no time burying his first of the season, a low shot to the stick side of Scott Darling.
The Jets couldn't keep the Hurricanes power play quiet for long though. With Perreault in the box for tripping, Noah Hanifin sent a pass from the point to Jeff Skinner - playing in his 500th game - who ripped a wrist shot off the bar and in past Hellebuyck.
But that was the only puck to get by Hellebuyck on this night. In total, he turned aside 28 of 29 shots for his third win in three starts. But Hellebuyck deferred the credit to the players in front of him.
"You can see the guys tonight blocking shots, working really hard, and grinding the other team down and keeping everything to the outside," Hellebuyck said. "I've been saying that for the last three games, and it's been true every single game. I think the guys in front of me have been playing outstanding."
Video: POSTGAME | Connor Hellebuyck
Neither team could break the tie in the second, with the Jets best chance coming after an extended amount of zone time for Carolina.
After Mark Scheifele got the team's first shot of the middle frame 8:38 in to the middle frame, the line of Shawn Matthias, Andrew Copp, and Brandon Tanev went to work. Tanev gained the zone off the rush, and seconds later it was Tanev with the shot from the slot that was stopped by Darling. A scramble ensued in front of the Carolina net, but no Jet could bang in the loose puck.
"This one was circled on the calendar from the start of the year with how Carolina plays. I don't know that I thought we moved the puck exactly as unusually as we did through two periods," said Maurice. "From where we were a week ago to where we are now in terms of handling that on the bench … You knew it was going to be that kind of game. They stuck with it, and they found a way to get better. That's a really good sign."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
Nikolaj Ehlers stretched his goal scoring streak to three games with 13:57 on the clock in the third. The Danish forward flew up the ice to gain the zone, and left the puck behind the Hurricanes net for Wheeler. Ehlers kept his feet moving and Wheeler hit him with a return pass in the high slot. A high wrist shot flew off the stick of Ehlers, beating Darling high on the stick side to put the Jets up 2-1.
"We've been able to build some chemistry over the past two years, on and off, playing with each other," said Ehlers, who now has five tallies on the season. "The two guys I'm playing with, Scheif is doing such a big job for us, making great passes and opening up plays for me and Wheels. Wheels is so experienced, he sees things that aren't really there, but they are.
"Playing with those two guys is a pleasure, and I'm just trying to keep this going."
Video: POSTGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers
While Scheifele didn't show up on the score sheet for just the second time this season, Wheeler could only describe number 55's play in one word.
"Scheifele was a monster out there tonight. He was off the score sheet but he was a monster. He was all over the place," said Wheeler. "He was creating loose pucks for Nik and I, and it just took us a couple periods to keep up to him. Finally we were able to make a play.
"You have to give Scheif a lot of credit. His game is just taking off to new heights right now, and same with Nik."
Next up for the Jets is a tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the second game of a three-game home stand. But first, a day off for a team that needs it, says Maurice.
Video: POSTGAME | Mark Scheifele
"When you look at our month, so we had two non-playoff teams that we were playing in Vancouver and these guys, who are a good hockey team," said Maurice, happy to have a three-game win streak five games into the season.
"This is a real challenging month for us. You want to get the belief that you can get on a roll."
It wasn't all good news on Saturday, as both Mathieu Perreault and Dmitry Kulikov left the game in the third period with lower-body injuries.
Maurice said a further update will be given on Monday.
Dustin Byfuglien played 24:14 in his return to action after missing the last two games, and added an assist on the eventual game-winner from Ehlers.
"I thought in the third period especially he changed the way that game felt with a few hits. They changed the way they attacked his side of the ice," said Maurice. "He got on the body and made plays. That's why we ran him as hard as we did in the third.
"He's a big strong man and his game was completely under control tonight."