Video: WPG@NJD: Laine dekes, slides puck in for SO advantage
NEWARK, NJ - Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Joel Armia scored in regulation, while Patrik Laine tallied the shootout winner as the Jets rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the New Jersey Devils 4-3.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 20 of 23, and all three in the shootout.
"There were stretches where we played really well," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "But what I liked was that at 3-1, we had a great battle to a shot in the slot, we found our game after that and we started to play better. Based on the travel we'd just run through and the fact that we just got officially eliminated from the playoffs, spirits were a little low and we didn't have a lot in the tank tonight but we didn't quit."
The Jets entered the third period trailing by one, but Armia tied the game with an incredible shorthanded goal - his third, and ninth of the year overall - at 2:39.
The Finn carried the puck through traffic up the right side, and after outrunning the first of three defenders near the benches, he put the moves on the other two, turning each of them inside out with the silkiest of toe drags. Then, with a clear lane at the top of the circles, he fired a beautiful shot over the shoulder of Cory Schneider to even the score at three.
Video: WPG@NJD: Armia weaves into zone for beautiful SHG
They don't call him 'The Dangler' for nothing.
He now has nine goals and 17 points this year.
"For him it's all about compete," Maurice said of the young winger. "It's not that he doesn't want to, it's the same thing that all those guys are going through. They've never had to do it every night, and certainly not at the National League level, so they're having to now and the coaches are barking at them. Pucks out, pucks in, those are the hard parts of our game that he needs to make improvements on, but he is making improvements on it. It's markedly better than it was last year at the start of the year.
"Like all of them, they're learning how hard it is. We think he's a skilled player and we think he has lots of skill. There's a lot there that we like and he's just going to get better. He's just developing."
Video: POSTGAME | Joel Armia
The Jets got things rolling offensively with the opening tally only 52 seconds in, as Ehlers and Wheeler worked a pretty give-and-go off the rush. Ehlers dropped the puck back to Wheeler at the line, and the captain returned the favour with a nifty pass into the slot. Ehlers took it off the right skate and chipped a quick shot over Schneider's glove to give the Jets a 1-0 lead.
Ehlers had one of his best games in recent memory, pushing the pace offensively with that incredible speed of his, and that vision, touch and creativity around the net he's quickly becoming known for.
In all, the 21-year-old finished with five shots - second only to Laine, who was buzzing as well and had a game-high six.
"I felt pretty good," said Laine, who was not quite 100 percent after recovering from an illness.
Asked what he wants to accomplish in the final five games of the season, Laine - who trails Toronto's Auston Matthews by only a single point in the rookie scoring race - just wants to win.
"It doesn't matter where we are as a team, I just want to focus on the team," he said. "We could either be leading the league or missing the playoffs, I just want to focus on what my team is doing and try to help improve our game.
"I want to get five wins, that's for sure, and maybe a couple goals for myself. But if I don't score, I'm not going to be disappointed. If I can play well during these games, hopefully I can still learn something new."
Video: POSTGAME | Patrik Laine
Moments after Mark Scheifele rifled a shot off a near post on 3-on-1 the other way, the Devils came right back and evened the score with a gritty goal in tight. Hellebuyck was unable to squeeze the initial backhand from Pavel Zacha and, with the puck sitting flat on the goal line, Beau Bennett raced in and poked it home with Dustin Byfuglien draped all over him.
The Devils took a 2-1 lead at 12:07 as Josh Morrissey got tripped up in the neutral zone, allowing the speedy Taylor Hall to break in alone. Hall made a great move on the forehand, outwaiting the gaolie and slipping a shot between the pad the post for his 19th of the year.
Shots on goal were even at seven apiece after one.
Video: WPG@NJD: Ehlers picks the corner in opening minute
The Jets were all over the Devils in the second, outshooting them 15-3 in the front half of the stanza, but it remained a one-goal game after the teams traded goals in the final five minutes of the period.
Stefan Noesen helped the Devils open up a two-goal lead off a terrific feed from Blake Pietila at 15:27, but the Jets replied only 1:09 later to get back within one.
Julian Melchiori let one fly from well out at the top of the zone, and Wheeler - who posted up between the dots - got a piece of it en route, deflecting the puck high over Schneider's glove to score his 23rd of the campaign.
Mark Scheifele drew the second assist to record his team-leading 77th point.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com