Video: POSTGAME | Jets 4 Wild 3 - F
WINNIPEG - The season may only be seven games old, but the Winnipeg Jets have focused on improving how they handle adversity.
They saw their fair share of it tonight against the Minnesota Wild, and passed with flying colours in a 4-3 win.
"We kind of lost the momentum there after a good start, and we were fighting it a little bit," said Blake Wheeler. "I thought we got moving a little bit better in the third, and made some nice plays. At the end of the day you have to execute a play or two here and there. We did just enough to get it."
Look no further than when the game was tied at three, with 11:18 to go. Blake Wheeler drove around Matt Dumba, and his initial backhand was stopped by Devan Dubnyk, and Mark Scheifele slid home what would be the go ahead goal.
Except it wasn't to be.
After a challenge from the Wild, the goal was called back due to goaltender interference. All that did though, was set the stage for the captain, who netted his 200th career goal off a slick backhand feed from Kyle Connor.
Video: MIN@WPG: Wheeler nets 200th career goal for late lead
"Both were the product of great plays. (Tyler) Myers made a great play waiting for me on the disallowed goal. And Connor made just an unbelievable backhand pass to a little bit of a tap in there," said Wheeler. "Great plays by those guys, and I was able to get a bit of speed and get some cross overs going, and luckily got around them."
The Jets got the first power play of the game, and Patrik Laine made sure the opportunity didn't go to waste. Entering the zone off the rush from a Mark Scheifele pass, Blake Wheeler spotted Laine across the ice on the left wing. The captain slid the feed over, and Laine ripped it past a sliding Dubnyk.
The power play finished two-for-three on the night, after not finding twine since the win over Edmonton on Oct. 9.
"There's lots of places to put the puck, and 29 is usually a good option," said Maurice.
"It's not something you want to force. When the power play is rolling right, there are too many other good options for that to happen. We got stuck on the half wall for about three or four games massaging the puck. We had clean entries today… It's all about speed, and they were much quicker tonight."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
Just 1:42 later, the Jets would increase the lead to 2-0 off some great work from Toby Enstrom. Pinching in from the blue line, the veteran defenceman beat Chris Stewart wide down the left wing boards and slid a nifty pass to Nikolaj Ehlers all alone in front of Dubnyk. Ehlers fired a wrist shot off the bar and in, and after a quick video review, Ehlers had his team-leading sixth of the season.
Video: MIN@WPG: Ehlers buries Enstrom's terrific pass
Stewart cut the Jets lead to one after catching Josh Morrissey with a hit behind the Jets net on a forecheck. Morrissey felt the effects of the hit and was slow to his feet, which gave Stewart time to get in front and backhand a pass from Jason Zucker past Hellebuyck.
Just under five minutes later, Mikko Koivu took a pass from Zucker's on an odd man rush with Shawn Matthias giving chase, and Koivu slipped a backhand past Hellebuyck to tie the game at two.
Then with Dustin Byfuglien off for holding, the Wild would take the lead on the power play when a point shot from Mike Reilly got through a screen in front of Hellebuyck putting Minnesota up 3-2.
Video: POSTGAME | Patrik Laine
"We weren't pleased with the way it slid in the second, and that was we felt maybe more self-inflicted. Some things that we stopped doing, but we played our best in the last 20, which is really important," said Maurice.
"We got big performances out of our drivers. Really became the best players on the ice and won the game for us."
Laine made sure the Wild didn't have the lead long. When the Jets got a power play of their own when Kyle Quincey slashed the stick of Brendan Lemieux, Scheifele carried the puck in to the offensive zone, spun back and found Laine at the top of the circle. His blast beat Dubnyk high on the stick side for the Finnish forward's second of the night.
Video: MIN@WPG: Laine blasts second PPG past Dubnyk
"I think it was more like a muffin," Laine said with a smile. "I think it hit Koivu or someone else's stick. That wasn't a good shot, but I'll take it.
"We haven't had that much success on our power play in the regular season, so it was nice to get the two goals."
Hellebuyck made 24 saves on the night to move to 4-0-0 in his four starts this season.
Brendan Lemieux finished with 9:53 of ice time in his NHL debut, and had a couple of hits to go along with it, all with his dad - former NHLer Claude - his mom, sister, and girlfriend in attendance.
"I'm still smiling a little bit. It was really fun. I'm just really happy we came out with the win," said Lemieux.
"Coach said before the game that you can win a bunch of Stanley Cups, and MVPs, and score a million goals, but you only get one first game. I took that to heart and it was kind of surreal. I thought about that my whole life. Everyone in my family was hoping I could get here, and now I'm here. Now it's matter of sticking, and contributing. Tonight was incredible. I'm just really blessed to have had the opportunity."
Maurice didn't hesitate to play Lemieux in key situations, including when the Jets were up a goal with under three minutes left in regulation.
"He had earned it. He played a real simple game. But three or four times he took the puck from the hashmarks in our end to their end of the ice and looked to get a hit - simple, clean, showed good speed," said Maurice. "I thought he was strong on the puck, and strong on those battles. So I had lots of confidence in him going in."