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Jets close out 2019 with huge win in Denver

Kyle Connor scores his second career hat trick including the game winner

by Jamie Thomas @JamieThomasTV / Winnipeg Jets

DENVER, CO - It was an entertaining way to close out 2019 for the Winnipeg Jets at Pepsi Center in Denver.

Connor Hellebuyck showed the form that allowed him to be selected to his second NHL All-Star Weekend making 39 saves. Kyle Connor scored three times, Blake Wheeler scored twice, Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers added singles for Winnipeg who ended their six game losing streak in Denver with a huge 7-4 win. 

"I thought we came out really well, really strong. First half of the first period we were really good," said Wheeler.

"They got going there for awhile and we just had to battle. Wasn't always pretty, it wasn't always us carrying the play by any means. You don't have to win in this league like that. Just battle and I think we had every guy invested in that battle."

Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler

The Jets and the goal post reunited on the first shift, Josh Morrissey fired a long shot from the point and Wheeler in his 900th career game tipped it and found the iron. Winnipeg hit three posts in their last game Sunday in St. Louis. 

Wheeler got another chance on a beautiful pass from Jack Roslovic at 6:25 of the first and this time he went high and inside the post for his 12th goal of the season to make it 1-0. The Wheeler, Roslovic and Nikolaj Ehlers line was one of the Jets best on this night.

"That line, so let's stop looking at goals and assists. I think that's the best technical game that line's played and maybe the best technical game those two wingers have played in the NHL," said Maurice.

"They were stopped in the right spots; I mean they were right on."

Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice

The Avs tied the game just over three minutes later, Samuel Girard twisted and turned at the blue line before giving the puck to Nathan MacKinnon who wristed a shot the found the back of the net. Hellebuyck felt he was bumped by Gabriel Landeskog but the officials didn't agree.

That goal woke up the hosts as the outshot the Jets 17-8 in the opening frame. Hellebuyck was brilliant, his best stop was a glove save on MacKinnon during a breakaway.

"I like the rhythm. I was seeing it well. I feel like I was playing my game well," said Hellebuyck.

"Taking it to them and getting to my spots so when I got in my groove I just made sure I stuck in it."

Video: POSTGAME | Connor Hellebuyck

The Jets had a glorious chance to take the lead under two minutes into the second period, Patrik Laine found Connor on a two-on-one but the Grubauer stretched over a made a highlight reel save. 

Connor would get his 18th of the season at 8:27 after some good forechecking caused Cale Makar to turn the puck over and the Jet forward got a fortuitous bounce past Grubauer to make it 2-1. 

At 13:47 and Connor in the box for holding, the Avs power play tied the game with Girard and MacKinnon teaming up again. This time MacKinnon one timed a Girard pass past Hellebuyck. It marked the eighth time in the last nine games Winnipeg has allowed a power play marker.

Just 1:06 later, Winnipeg took the lead again. Scheifele played give and go with Neal Pionk and the Jets defenceman finally finding Scheifele high in the slot, he scored his 18th of the season and gave the Jets a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.

The Jets held that lead until Connor took his second penalty of the night, a double minor for high sticking Girard. The Avs had a long run of offensive zone time and with 1:50 left in the man advantage, Gabriel Landeskog scored to tie the game.

Winnipeg finally got their first man advantage of the night with 9:22 left in the game and they made it count. Pionk threw a shot at the net and Connor tipped it past Grubauer from the top of the Colorado crease for the Jets fourth one goal lead.

"That kind of sucks. I have to control my stick a little better but I was trying to make a play and I ended up with four minutes," said Connor.

You know especially watching them score too, it's tough to sit there and watch that. We battled back. You know everybody top to bottom, we got efforts from everybody so it was a big win."

Video: POSTGAME | Kyle Connor

He would then add his third goal and the eventual game winner to get to 20 on the season. Both Wheeler and Ehlers would score empty net goals to round out the scoring for Winnipeg.

The Jets are 5-3-0 in New Year's Eve games since relocation in 2011. They have won the past three years on New Year's Eve, with two consecutive victories in Edmonton and tonight's two points in Denver.

Winnipeg returns to Bell MTS Place on Thursday to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first game of 2020.

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