WINNIPEG - There's a 'character game,' and then there's the ultimate statement, like the one delivered Tuesday in downtown Winnipeg.
The Jets, who entered the night 8-7-2 and on the verge of a season-long five-game road trip, showed everyone that what's been brewing in the depths of MTS Centre this season is no fluke.
They're here to play, injuries or not.
Josh Morrissey, Chris Thorburn, Patrik Laine and Nic Petan supplied the offence, while Connor Hellebuyck made 27 saves to backstop the Jets to a 4-0 shutout victory over the division rival Chicago Blackhawks, emphatically ending their opponent's 11-game point streak.
Morrissey's goal was his first in the NHL, while Thorburn and Petan each got their first of the year. Laine, meanwhile, extended his league-lead in goals with his 12th of the campaign.
The Jets have now collected points in five straight games (4-0-1) and are sitting pretty at the second in the Central Division with games against the Flyers, Bruins, Hurricanes, Wild and Predators all upcoming over the next nine days away from Winnipeg.
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
"Everybody on our bench feels they're important. They don't go on the ice to hold water or just get through the shift. They understand that they are all impact players in how we use them," said Head Coach Paul Maurice, who described the game as one of, if not the best game of the Jets' young season.
Leading 1-0, Winnipeg scored three goals in a little more than four minutes - including a pair just 11 seconds apart - early in the third to blow this one wide open.
Thorburn struck first, putting the Jets up by two with a strange one at 4:41, turning and firing off the right wall and beating Crawford high over the left shoulder after getting a nice pass from Paul Postma.
"I've been practicing that shot for a while now," Thorburn joked.
Laine gave the Jets a 3-0 lead at 8:32, chopping home a loose puck after Dustin Byfuglien took the puck wide and pulled off a sweet, one-handed wraparound, allowing his Finnish 'mate to jump in and get a crack at it.
Video: CHI@WPG: Laine chips in Byfuglien's attempt
Petan rounded out the scoring at 8:43, working his way to the blue paint before getting a lovely no-look, behind-the-back feed from former Hawk Marko Dano, and rifling it home for his first of the year.
"After the second we knew we weren't playing to our strengths and doing the things we need to do to be successful against this team," Thorburn said. "They play a solid game and kind of suck you into playing their game and they kind of did that to us in the second. We needed to change that in the third and I thought we did a good job of bouncing back."
Morrissey opened the scoring for the Jets at 6:25 of the first period. Nikolaj Ehlers made a great pass off the rush to Mark Scheifele, who then found the defenceman fishing at the top of the circles. With a clear lane to the net, the rookie made no mistake, drilling a one-timer for the first of his career, just 18 games in.
Corey Crawford got a piece of it, but not enough as it squeezed under his arm and into the back of the net.
Video: CHI@WPG: Morrissey one-times his first NHL goal
Morrissey joins Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Brandon Tanev as the four Jets rookies to have scored their first goal so far this year.
"It's something you dream about your whole life. It's pretty special," Morrissey said of the goal, adding that it hasn't fully sunk in yet. "You score it and it's exciting and the crowd's going wild and you realize your scored for first goal, but then it's back to work in the next 30 seconds."
Video: POSTGAME | Josh Morrissey
And go back to work he did.
With less than a minute remaining in the opening frame, the young blueliner threw a cataclysmic hit at the defensive blue line, sending Chicago forward Vinnie Hinostroza down to the ice in a heap. Morrissey made clean contact with the shoulder, driving through the chest, but was curiously assessed a charging penalty. Hinostroza was injured on the play, but it likely occurred afterwards when his head rattled the boards.
He did not return to the game.
"It was a really good hit," Maurice said.
Back-to-back penalties to Paul Postma and Ben Chiarot gave the Blackhawks a 1:07 long 5-on-3 early in the middle frame. Hellebuyck was forced to come up with a number of big saves, but that, combined with the exceptional penalty-killing efforts of Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler, helped the Jets keep in the lead.
Hellebuyck described it as the "perfect game."
"What's not perfect about it? Four goals, a shutout - I liked it.
Video: POSTGAME | Connor Hellebuyck
"We're really buying into the D zone and doing things right. (The skaters) are making my life easier, which makes it easier on them, because once they get into the offensive zone, they have so much talent. You saw it. Three goals in the third."
The capacity crowd gave their team a standing ovation when the penalties came to an end, and it was at this point when you felt the Jets just couldn't lose.
Shots on goal favoured the Hawks - who had three second-period power plays - 20-13 after 40 minutes of play.
The Jets took over in the third, scoring three and outshooting the Hawks 11-7.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com