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Hellebuyck brilliant, but Jets fall to Pens in overtime

Morrissey scores Winnipeg's lone goal; Kessel scores OT winner for Pittsburgh

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick / WinnipegJets.com

Sure, the Winnipeg Jets leave PPG Paints Arena with only one of the two points they came for, but they can certainly be proud of the effort and the way they handled the two-time defending Cup champs in their own barn.

"We grinded hard," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said following a 2-1 OT loss to the Penguins on Thursday. "They were able to make one extra play that we weren't able to make. You've got to love the mindset, though. We battled hard. the penalty kill was huge tonight and (Connor Hellebuyck) was awesome. There are lots of positives to draw on going into tomorrow."

Video: POST GAME | JetsTV Road Report

In overtime, Phil Kessel picked off a Patrik Laine's cross-ice pass attempt just inside the offensive blue line and took it back the other way on a breakaway. With Laine in chase, Kessel rifled a shot five-hole to record his fourth of the year and his second OT winner in as many games.

It was Kessel's 300th career goal -- 53 of which have come with the Penguins.

With the OT defeat, the Jets fall to 4-3-1 on the year, but will look to get back in the win column on Friday as they make a stop in Columbus to finish up a two-game road trip.

"I've got to have that save in overtime. I don't know what I was thinking," said Hellebuyck, who had a magnificent night in goal, stopping 34 overall.  

"I almost read it too well. I knew he was going five-hole and I thought I could kick it out, but that's not goaltending. I need to just drop in my butterfly and make the save like I'd been doing all summer."

Video: WPG@PIT: Hellebuyck flashes the leather for save

"We want to be very careful with those lateral passes in overtime," added Head Coach Paul Maurice, who didn't fault his goaltender one bit. "Part of 3-on-3 is making a better decision with that puck, but also not being in a position to force it. (Laine) has to make a better decision, but we've got to move around him better, too."

It was a thrilling, back-and-forth physical affair and shots favoured the Penguins 35-31 after regulation.

Conor Sheary opened the scoring for the Penguins only 1:25 into the first period. Jake Guentzel threaded a pass from the far side past Tyler Myers and onto the stick of Sheary driving the middle. The winger's backhand redirect beat Hellebuyck five-hole, putting him into tie with Sidney Crosby for the team lead in goals with five. 

"We weren't as crisp and as detailed as we needed to be early, but that was a heck of a play," said Matt Hendricks, who played 8:57 and won 70 per cent of his faceoffs in his Jets debut. "I loved our response. We didn't go into panic mode and try to score next shift. We got our game plan and dug, and dug, and dug."

Soon, the Jets found their legs after a rare, five-day break between games, and after closing the gap on the shot clock, they leveled the score with a devious one at 9:26. After Bryan Little won the offensive-zone faceoff clean back to the point, Josh Morrissey floated one through and got a friendly tip off the stick of Kris Letang, beating Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray high over the glove.

Video: WPG@PIT: Morrissey scores off friendly deflection

At the other end, Hellebuyck kept it a 1-1 game with a couple of key stops down the stretch, including a beautiful glove save off the five-time 30-goal scorer, Phil Kessel, with 6:45 to play.

Shots on goal favoured the home side 11-10, but it was a good road period for the Jets after a long layoff.

The Jets nearly took a 2-1 lead midway through the second when Patrik Laine made a gorgeous diagonal feed to a streaking Nikolaj Ehlers in tight, but Murray came up with a world-class blocker save to keep the game knotted at one.

Kyle Connor, meanwhile, was a beast for the Jets all night, playing more than 18 minutes and getting involved on a number of high-quality scoring chances and just didn't go.

As he has been in each of his last seven starts, Murray has been at the top of his game.  

"We go to play another great team in Columbus (on Friday)," Hendricks said. "If we come out with the same mentality and the same detailed game tomorrow night, I think we're going to have some success."

- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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