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Jets double up Coyotes in regular season finale

Jets finish second in the Central, earn home ice in First Round against St. Louis

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

GLENDALE, Arizona - With all the possible scenarios swirling around the 82nd game of the regular season for the Winnipeg Jets, head coach Paul Maurice and his group broke down Saturday's game against the Arizona Coyotes to one thing:

"We came here today going we're going to have an opportunity for home ice in the First Round or not," said Maurice. "That's what was at stake for us."

Well, the Jets got it done.

Three second period goals pushed the Jets to a 4-2 victory over the Coyotes. The victory, combined with wins by the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues means the Jets will finish second in the Central Division. With that, comes home ice advantage in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Goals from Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Kyle Connor, and Nikolaj Ehlers clinched the win that pushed the Jets to 47-30-5.

Video: WPG@ARI: Scheifele buries one-timer for equalizer

The trio of Scheifele, Connor, and Blake Wheeler combined for five points in the win.

"It's another night where I liked all the lines," said Maurice. "There was just more looking like they're on the same page. Our shift length was right tonight. We got on and off the ice at a good pace and we were able to carry our pace. There's some chemistry there."

An early power play for the home side resulted in the game's opening goal, as Alex Galchenyuk intercepted a clearing attempt in the high slot. His shot went off the stick of Adam Lowry and past Connor Hellebuyck on the glove side 2:21 into the opening period.

But the Jets would get that back as Kyle Connor flew down the ice on the left-wing side, came around the net, and found Scheifele inside the circle. Scheifele whipped it on goal and beat Calvin Pickard just under the bar for his 38th goal of the season.

Video: WPG@ARI: Connor sweeps home rebound in front

The goal also gave Scheifele 83 points on the season - a new career-high.

"We stuck with it. We stayed pretty even keel throughout the whole game - in the locker room and on the bench," said Connor. "We generated some good offence and we were able to capitalize."

Winnipeg kept up the pressure in the second and got rewarded for it 2:35 in. Par Lindholm drove around the Arizona net and his wraparound attempt sat open in the crease. Jacob Trouba hammered away at the loose puck, knocking home his eighth of the season for a 2-1 Jets lead.

Following 1:13 of 4-on-4 hockey, the Jets had a 47-second power play opportunity. Wheeler fed Scheifele in the slot for a quick chance that was stopped by Pickard. But the rebound popped out to Connor, who backhanded home his 34th of the season two seconds after the power play had expired.

The assist gave Wheeler 91 points, tying his career-high from last season.

"We were able to capitalize. We stayed with it. Our first periods have been really good actually lately, sometimes in those second periods we've slipped a bit - shift length has gotten a little long and got away from our game," said Wheeler. "We were able to stay with it, stay on those guys, draw a few penalties and capitalize."

Video: WPG@ARI: Trouba sweeps in goal at the doorstep

The visitors made their next power play count, as Tyler Myers sent a point shot that Pickard turned aside, right to where Ehlers was standing. Ehlers potted the rebound for his 21st of the campaign and a 4-1 Jets lead.

Brad Richardson converted on a 2-on-1 rush 3:29 into the third period to cut the Jets lead to 4-2.

Arizona appeared to have pulled to within one with 5:10 to go in regulation, but a goaltender interference challenge from Maurice kept Winnipeg up by two.

Video: WPG@ARI: Ehlers buries rebound along goal line

That's the way the game would finish, and now all the preparation goes into preparing for the Blues.

"We know we've got our work cut out for us. At this time of year, regardless of who you're playing, it's going to be really tough," said Wheeler. "We're going to get a couple days in our own beds, stay in the Central time zone for a couple weeks. We have to fill up those streets in Winnipeg again."

Following a road trip that saw the Jets go 2-1-1, that home-ice advantage is important, according to Maurice.

"The last thing we want to do is get on another plane in three days," said Maurice. "This is our first three-day block off since late January. We're going to use it and enjoy it - and get ready."

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