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Laine has four points as Jets beat Wild in home opener

Wheeler records 700th career point; Hellebuyck makes 38 saves

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - After the memorable off-ice show including a new intro video and individual player introductions set the stage, the Winnipeg Jets made sure the show on the ice at Bell MTS Place was just as memorable.

Patrik Laine scored twice and had four points as the Jets beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 in Winnipeg's home opener. Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, and Jack Roslovic added singles in the victory, which improved the Jets record to 3-2-0.

In total, Wheeler, Laine, and Mark Scheifele combined for 10 points. Laine himself has 10 points on the season - which by the end of the game had him tied for the league lead.

"I wouldn't be there without my teammates and my line mates. They've done a really good job of giving me some great looks, great opportunities," said Laine. "I think my goal for the season was to try and work as hard as I can every night and every day. I've been able to do that for the last five games.

"It's still not quite there, I'm still working as hard as I can, but I don't think I'm playing the way I can. That only shows what I'm capable of and hopefully I can have a good rest of the season."

Video: MIN@WPG: Wheeler pots sweet dish for 700th NHL point

While the performance of Scheifele's line was memorable, the turning point came in the third period.

With the game tied at two, Nikolaj Ehlers and Carter Soucy were assessed offsetting minor penalties.

At four-on-four, the Jets used the extra ice to their advantage, scoring twice in 28 seconds to turn a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 lead with 10:45 to go in regulation.

"We're a group with time and space, we can make some plays," said Wheeler. "We got a couple of breakdowns and obviously the first one, was pretty spectacular. That's a game-breaking type of play and we're lucky to have players like that on our team."

It didn't necessarily start easy for the Jets, who lost all five games they played against the Wild last season.

With 6:52 remaining in the first period, Ryan Hartman picked the pocket of Jets defenceman Ville Heinola, who was trying to use the net as protection from the Minnesota forechecker. Hartman's stick check knocked Heinola off balance and gave just enough time for Hartman to slide the puck under Connor Hellebuyck.

Video: MIN@WPG: Wheeler, Laine connect to put Jets ahead

But the Jets captain would tie the game 1:37 into the second period - and hit a career milestone in the process. 

When Wheeler saw Mark Scheifele win a puck battle behind the net, he made a break for the front of the net from the right circle. Scheifele slid it out to Wheeler who banged home his third of the season and 700th career NHL point.

"I feel real lucky. You hit certain milestones or whatever it might be, you don't really reflect on it at this point. You're in the thick of things," said Wheeler.

"I've got some outstanding opportunities, especially here. I play with great players. When you're given those type of roles, you're going to have the opportunity to put up some numbers. It's been fun."

Video: MIN@WPG: Roslovic backhands home the loose puck

Winnipeg's top line would strike again before the midway mark of the period. With Scheifele driving down the right wing, drawing Joel Eriksson-Ek and Ryan Suter to him, Laine found open space on the left wing. Scheifele waited until the last possible second, then threaded a perfect pass to Laine, who one-timed it past Dubnyk from the top of the circle.

"I had no idea he was going to pass that. I think he was the only one who knew he was going to pass to me. He didn't even look at me once," Laine said. "I was pretty sure he was going to dump it and we were going to change. But he's that kind of player that can make those passes."

Minnesota's Brad Hunt pulled the Wild back on even terms 3:09 into the third after an extended offensive zone shift for the visitors.

That was the last puck to beat Hellebuyck, who backed up a 37-save performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 38-save effort against the Wild.

"Connor has looked aggressive and sharp. We had a conversation before the Islander game on the day off before, he was clear with me that he felt really good," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

"He liked where he was at better than at any point last year. He had lots of confidence in his game. He's shown it."

Video: MIN@WPG: Hellebuyck stands strong to stone Kunin

Then came the four-on-four chance, where the Jets are so lethal.

First, Neal Pionk started a rush up ice, turned back and found Laine coming down the middle. Laine deked through Jordan Greenway then laid a perfect pass to Connor, who slid home his second of the season to put the Jets back in front.

Just 28 seconds later, Josh Morrissey started another rush up ice and while his initial shot was stopped, Roslovic was there to tap home the rebound for a 4-2 Jets lead.

It was just the type of response Maurice wanted to see from his team, especially after giving up the lead during a push from the Wild to start the third period.

"They came very aggressively. We had a hard time making that first exit. The first exit pass that sets up the next one and the next one. Sometimes you just have to survive pieces of the game," said Maurice.

"The bench was right. The next line going over didn't go over quiet. They went over and rallied to try and make it better and stem the tide. Eventually we got the goal and that helped."

Video: MIN@WPG: Connor gives Jets lead on Laine's slick pass

The Jets will try and carry that momentum on the road as they head to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks on Saturday.

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