WINNIPEG - Home, sweet home.
Connor Hellebuyck made 42 saves as the Winnipeg Jets ended a five-game losing streak with a 3-0 win over the division rival Nashville Predators at MTS Centre.
Drew Stafford, Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry scored for the Jets, who improved to 10-12-2 with the win.
Stafford scored his first year of the year to break a scoreless tie late in the second period, while Scheifele and Lowry both found the empty net in the final minute of the game.
"Some real good goaltending tonight and lots and lots of effort," said Head Coach Paul Maurice, who lauded the 27 blocked shots from his team tonight. "Things weren't smooth or easy, at times, with the puck but usually [with] a real hard effort and good goaltending, you're going to give yourself a chance.
"We got contributions from just about everybody that got a chance to play, and then you need two or three guys to be special," the coach added, specifically mentioning the captain, Blake Wheeler, who had one of his best nights of the year with 23-and-a-half minutes of work in the trenches.
The Jets opened the scoring with only 4:39 left in the second period. Stafford went to the net, gathered up the rebound from a Trouba shot, took it around to the opposite side and stuffed it between the pad and the post for his first of the year.
Video: POSTGAME | Drew Stafford
"It feels good to be back and pretty much 100 percent," Stafford said. "The way I look at it, I've only played three games this year. To get back in and get feeling like myself again, and not only that, but to contribute on the score sheet again is huge. We needed this tonight.
"We talked about how this was an opportunity to squash (the five-game losing streak). Over the course of a season you're going to have your ups and downs, but the good thing about this game is that you get a chance pretty much every other night to get back at it. Tonight we were able to take advantage of it and it starts in net with a heck of a performance by (Hellebuyck)."
The defence wasn't too bad, either.
Trouba, who was quite possibly the best player on the ice, was involved at both ends all afternoon, driving the bus offensively and dishing out some big hits, like his late-third period smash on Mike Ribiero.
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
"He's built on (his game) right from the start," Maurice said. "He's always played his best hockey in the heavier games. The bigger grind, the teams that drive the net harder, that's where he excels. … The amount of time that he missed is so difficult to recapture in your play. The benefit is that it wasn't an injury that kept him out. He's quite a bit ahead of where I expected him to be and has handled the minutes well. He can be such an impactful defenceman. He's such a strong man physically and as he gets more and more into his rhythm, we're going to really enjoy his play this year."
Trouba led the team with more than 27 minutes of ice time, recording his first points of the year with an assist on two of the Jets' three goals, and a team-high four shots.
"I was pretty happy with how I was playing defensively," said Trouba, who had gone eight games without a point after signing on Nov. 7. "The chances come when they come and the points come when they come. That's never what I'm keying on, I'm just worried about trying to keep pucks out of my net."
Video: POSTGAME | Jacob Trouba
The Jets outshot the Predators 12-9 in the middle frame, but the visitors had a late push, pouring five shots on Hellebuyck in the final few minutes. The home team held on, however, taking a lead into the third period for only the seventh time this year.
Hellebuyck was the reason, stopping Colin Wilson on a 2-on-1 just moments after the goal, and a few other golden opportunities in tight as Ryan Johansen - who, like Wilson, had a pair of goals the other night in Nashville - buzzed around the blue paint.
The Jets were on their heels in the early part of the third, surrendering the first eight shots before a double minor to Mark Stuart (high sticking) truly put the game on the line. The Preds were all over the Jets on the power play, but Hellebuyck was absolutely sensational, putting a stamp on an altogether impeccable effort. In all, the Predators had 20 third-period shots, including 12 on six minutes of power play time.
"Lately I've been feeling like I've been in that groove," he said. "I've liked the way I've been playing and although they scored five last game, I still like the way I've been feeling and I'm not losing my confidence because a goal here or there."
Video: POSTGAME | Connor Hellebuyck
Hellebuyck was the busier of the two netminders early on and all night, stopping 11 shots, as opposed to the four faced by Predators goalie Juuse Saros. Nashville defenceman Roman Josi had the best chance of the period midway through when he split the D and made a great move to break in alone, but Hellebuyck sprawled out and made a terrific pad save with his right leg flat on the ice.
"I don't think anyone was hitting the panic button," Hellebuyck said. "We just needed to get back to our game and that's what we did tonight. Now that we know how we need to play to win I think we can continue moving forward and continuing to get better here."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com