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Jets earn exhibition win over Canucks

"That would be the best exhibition game in terms of effort that I've ever seen." -Maurice

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

EDMONTON - As far as tune-up games go, the Winnipeg Jets couldn't have asked for a better one than Wednesday night's tilt against the Vancouver Canucks.

The 4-1 victory was nice, that's for sure, but it's what their opposition brought to the ice that Jets head coach Paul Maurice felt benefitted his team the most.

"That would be the best exhibition game in terms of effort that I've ever seen. There was some really good pace to it," said Maurice.

"There are some things in this game tonight that we think are applicable to our games against Calgary - how we break the puck out, the pressure we're going to see from their forecheck."

Video: VAN@WPG: Poolman threads puck home through traffic

The Jets had goals from Tucker Poolman, Nikolaj Ehlers, Dmitry Kulikov, and Blake Wheeler in the win, while Connor Hellebuyck played all 60 minutes, turning away 37 of 38 shots.

"I think tonight was a good step for us," said Wheeler. "There was obviously some moments where the plays weren't great, the hands weren't great. We talked before the game that we don't need hands right now, you just need to be in the battle and in the fight - willing to work and where things line up. Connor was outstanding tonight."

Poolman made amends for an elbowing penalty in the opening period by scoring the game's opening goal with 63 seconds remaining.

Hard work in the offensive zone from Nathan Beaulieu and Blake Wheeler got the puck back to the point, where Poolman's wrist shot beat Jacob Markstrom through a crowd to make it 1-0 Jets.

Poolman had two goals in his last five games going into the pause back in March. He had four shots on goal in the game while his defensive partner, Beaulieu, had an assist in 19:36 of ice time.

"There is a chemistry there. They like to have fun together on the ice," said Maurice. "Tucker covers a lot of ice just through that great stride that he has. Nathan competes on every stride. 

"We felt those two had really strong camps and tonight was a continuation of that."

Video: VAN@WPG: Kulikov buries Roslovic's nice dish

Winnipeg took that lead into the intermission thanks to a strong effort from Hellebuyck in his first period of hockey since March 11.

The Vezina Trophy finalist stopped all 12 shots he faced in the opening period.

"This game wasn't just an exhibition for me, it was getting that battle intensity up," said Hellebuyck, who added it was important for him to play all 60 minutes.

"I can remember from past experiences in training camp that the goalies would take the third period off. I'd get into a game and once that third period came, my body kind of shut down. I needed the push into the third period to not go into that recovery mode."

His teammates rewarded him with more offence with 5:06 to go in the second period. Josh Morrissey hit Patrik Laine in stride in the neutral zone, sending the Finnish winger into the Vancouver zone up the right-wing side. Laine's shot went off the right pad of Markstrom, but kicked right out to Ehlers, who made no mistake on the rebound.

Ehlers finished the night with 11:56 of ice time, but left the game in the third period and didn't return.

"Tonight was 100 per cent precautionary," Maurice said of Ehlers. "He wanted to play, he wanted to push it as long as he could. He was still feeling good but we weren't going to let it go any longer. I have lots of confidence in him being in practice full out in two days."

Just 1:25 after the Ehlers goal, Jack Roslovic slipped a perfect drop pass to a pinching Kulikov in the slot. Kulikov fired it home, increasing the Jets lead to 3-0.

Video: VAN@WPG: Ehlers shovels home rebound for 2-0 lead

It's that type of offensive flair that Maurice thinks Roslovic is prepared to bring to his line with Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp on a consistent basis.

"Jack in some ways has become more like the other two, more like Andrew and Adam, there is a simplicity that has come into his game," said Maurice.

"I don't look at that as just a shutdown line. They can do it because they're built to do it, but there is some offence to be had."

Vancouver got on the board with 6:47 left in regulation when Antoine Roussel poked home a loose puck, spoiling Hellebuyck's shutout bid. Wheeler added an empty net tally with 1:39 remaining.

Next action for the Jets is Game 1 against the Calgary Flames in the Qualifying Round on Saturday.

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