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Jets start fast, then hold off Blue Jackets

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG – For the second time in five days, the Winnipeg Jets will fly to the Windy City with two points in their back pocket.

Mathieu Perreault led the way with a goal and three assists, Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and two helpers, while Mark Scheifele, Drew Stafford and Adam Lowry rounded out the scoring as the Jets burned past the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-4 Thursday at MTS Centre.

Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves to remain undefeated in four career starts.

Boone Jenner, Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson (2) scored for the Jackets.

“We got off to a pretty hot start,” Lowry said. “We liked our game for the first two periods, for the most part. We loosened up a little bit in the third. That tends to happen when you score a few goals. ... They were able to capitalize and make it close at the end. Obviously with the way we finished, it isn’t necessarily the way we want to play, but we’re happy with the result.”

Two goals in the first two-and-a-half minutes put the Jets up by a pair before the Jackets recorded a single shot on goal.

Scheifele scored just 27 seconds into the game, capitalizing on a fortuitous bounce after rattling a shot off the end glass. The puck loose in the blue paint, Scheifele raced in and jammed it off the pad of Curtis McElhinney for the opening goal – his team-leading 11th.

With the crowd amped up, Lowry doubled the fun, recording his first of the year with a beautiful tip between the dots on a Byfuglien point shot.

“It’s a big sense of relief. It’s in the back of your mind as it drags on,” Lowry said of the snapping the drought. “The first bit I wasn’t too worried about it because the team was having success and you obviously want to contribute to that success.”

Byfuglien put the Jets up by three with a 45-foot bomb from the right point. With Wheeler planted in front, the puck eluded all traffic en route, sliding five-hole on the dejected Jackets netminder.

All three goals came on the Jets’ first five shots of the contest.

The visitors got one back late in the period as Jenner found a loose puck in tight, sweeping a backhander past Hellebuyck to pull his team within two at 15:38.

Shots on goal favoured the home side 11-5 after one period of play.

After a mostly uneventful middle frame that saw the Jets carry the play throughout, the Jackets made it a one-goal game with a power-play marker in the final minute. With Toby Enstrom off serving a hooking minor, Hartnell jumped on a loose puck and whacked it home, point-blank past Hellebuyck

The 22-year-old was obviously with the win, but was candid when assessing his own performance.

“I’ve got to tighten some things up on my end but I thought we played a good game,” Hellebuyck said. “Getting pieces of pucks isn’t enough in this league. I was giving them better scoring chances than they really deserved on certain plays. That being said, I thought they put a lot of good pucks at the net.”

Down 3-0 early in the first, the Jackets were suddenly back in it, very much alive after a listless start, despite being outshot by more than double after 40 minutes.

For a while, it looked as though we’d be in for another sprint to the finish line, but the Jets quickly put the brakes on any thought of a comeback.

Stafford put the Jets back up by a pair at 4:03 as he shovelled a rebound through the wickets of the goaltender. Then, just three-and-a-half minutes later, Perreault added a goal to his already impressive stat line, firing a bullet top shelf for the insurance.

And they needed it.

Atkinson scored twice in a six-minute span (one with the goalie pulled) to pull the Jackets within one late, but Blake Wheeler found the net with the ‘tender out at 19:15 to seal the victory.

“That line played a really good game in Chicago the last time we were in there,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “I think they’re capable of having nights like this. That’s what’s encouraging about them. The real strength of (Scheifele’s) line lately is that they’ve been good on both sides of the puck.”

– Ryan Dittrick,

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