WINNIPEG - It was every bit the entertaining, tight-checking, playoff-like physical affair we expect to see when these two teams hook up.
The Anaheim Ducks are a team that doesn't give you much on the best of nights, and on this one, the home side just couldn't get that one when they needed it.
They tried - man, did they try - pouring 33 shots on Anaheim goalie Jonathan Bernier, but his 31 saves helped preserve a 3-2 victory, despite a furious third-period rally.
Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers had the goals for Winnipeg, which failed to win a third straight game for the ninth game this season, while Ondrej Pavelec made 24 saves, suffering his first loss in three starts.
"It was a battle right from the get-go; a physical game, and not really a lot of easy ice for either team," said Head Coach Paul Maurice.
"They had the jump on us in the first, but in a stretch of time … we closed that gap off real tight on them in the third period. There weren't a lot of second opportunities, second rebounds (and) flurries off those [chances]. They're a big, strong team down low and they don't give you that."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
With most the scoring happening in the first period, the Jets entered the third trailing by one, until Ryan Getzlaf scored a power-play marker at 8:48, putting the Ducks up by two and quelling any thought of a comeback.
Ehlers' 17th of the year - a highlight-reel marker with 7:07 to play - pulled the Jets within one, but they couldn't cash another among their 17 third-period shots. With speed down the left side, Ehlers burned the defence, cut to the net and buried a backhander before flying through the air and crashing into the corner boards.
"I wanted to get that pass from Toby and just take the outside and see what happens," Ehlers said of the goal. "Everything just kind of opened up for me, so I just tried to take the puck to the net."
Ehlers added that while he hasn't yet seen what Stanley Cup Playoff action is all about first hand, tonight's game gave him a pretty good idea of what it's all about.
"It felt different than the other games. They were coming out hard, they were physical, but we knew that was coming and I thought we were ready for it. We had a quick start, let go for a couple minutes, but overall I thought it was a hard-fought game."
Video: ANA@WPG: Ehlers speeds past defense, tucks it home
The Jets had a chance to tie it on a power play with under five to play, but for the fifth time on many tries in the game, the advantage came up empty.
"We had some looks, maybe (some) not as clean as we'd like to," said captain Blake Wheeler, who led the way with eight shots on goal. "We were missing some key guys up front, but I thought everyone did a great job stepping up and working our tails off, but just came up short."
Winnipeg drew first blood just 2:14 in, but two goals in 85 seconds afterward supplied the offence for Anaheim as the Ducks took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
The Jets evened up the shot count, and had a couple great chances on a pair of mid-to-late period power plays, but Bernier held his ground, keeping the Ducks in front after 40 minutes.
The physical play ramped up late, and as you'd expect, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler were right in the middle of it.
As the horn sounded to end the second period, a scuffle ensued after Scheifele was hit along near the Anaheim bench. Blake Wheeler came in to protect his teammate, and was immediately jumped and dragged to the ice from behind by Perry.
Wheeler got up and angrily dropped the gloves in response, but Perry did not oblige.
The Jets opened the scoring early of the first period as Copp, who moved up to the second line in place of the injured Drew Stafford, took advantage of the increased role and ice time.
Copp took a wonderful pass from Mark Scheifele, who drew two defenders just inside the blue line, and labeled a shot stick side on Anaheim goalie Jonathan Bernier, giving him six on the year and second in the past three games.
"The first period wasn't our best and I think we know that, but after that we played a real solid, fast game," Copp said. "After not having a great first and being down, I thought we handled it real well and went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league."
Video: POSTGAME | Andrew Copp
Logan Shaw tied things up for the Ducks with a shorthanded goal just 2:07 later. The Winnipeg power play looked disorganized, at best, and after a minute of awful puck movement, the road team took advantage. Pavelec stopped the initial blast on a 2-on-1 by Joseph Cramarossa, but Shaw drove to the net and tapped home the rebound to make it a 1-1 game, and completely turn the tide
The Ducks took their first lead just over a minute later as Rickard Rakell beat Pavelec from a sharp angle, squeezing it between the pad and the near post from the bottom of the right circle to score his team-leading 20th of the campaign.
It was a goal Pavelec said he would love to have back.
Shots on goal favoured the Ducks 13-6 after one.
LATE HITS: Mathieu Perreault left the game early in the first period and did not return with an upper-body injury. Perreault had only three shifts, for a total 2:36 of ice time. … Nic Petan moved up the top line alongside Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler in Perreault's absence.
Perreault was injured on a play in the offensive zone when he took a two-handed slash, courtesy of Perry
He will not play on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com