WINNIPEG - What a night, Winnipeg.
What. A. Night.
In a wildly entertaining game Thursday - the likes of which we haven't seen in quite some time - the Winnipeg Jets roared back from a three-goal, third-period deficit to tie the game before winning it 5-4 in overtime, courtesy of Mark Scheifele.
Blake Wheeler led the way with a three-point (1G, 2A) night, while Patrik Laine scored his first NHL goal before assisting on Mathieu Perreault's game-tying marker with a minute-and-a-half to play, helping the Jets complete the comeback and ignite the sold-out crowd at MTS Centre.
"It was an amazing feeling," Laine said. "You only score your first NHL goal once, so it was nice to get it in the first game. It was amazing to feel the atmosphere in the rink."
After Wheeler cut the deficit to two with an unassisted shorthanded tally 5:09 into the third period (and just nine seconds after Viktor Rask put the Hurricanes up 4-1), Laine scored the goal that he will remember for the rest of his life.
On the power play, and with Drew Stafford setting the perfect screen in front, the Finn took a pass at the top of the near circle and beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward with a beautiful shot top shelf, pulling the Jets within one and nearly blowing the roof off in the process.
Best of all: Laine's family was on hand to soak it all in.
Video: POSTGAME | Patrik Laine
"I think it was a nice moment for them to see their son get his first NHL goal," he said. "It was nice to have them all here to see my first game."
Kyle Connor picked up his first NHL point with an assist on the goal.
And Laine wasn't done yet.
With the goalie pulled, he made a fabulous cross-ice pass to the captain, who then found Perreault in the blue paint for the equalizer just a few minutes later. It was an incredible play all around, and one that properly showcased the many strengths of the Jets' prized draft pick.
The Jets, who were mostly outplayed through two periods, outshot the Hurricanes 12-5 in the finale frame. Scheifele finished it in overtime, converting a beautiful feed from Wheeler on a 2-on-1 to give the Jets a season-opening 5-4 win.
"We were playing pretty (well) in the third period," Laine said. "Wheels got the shorthanded goal which was just amazing. Then things just started to go the right way. We managed to do our thing and get those two important goals."
Shawn Matthias got things rolling with his first as a Jet early in the first period to round out the scoring for Winnipeg. Connor Hellebuyck made 23 saves.
Laine, meanwhile, finished with two points, two shots and two hits in 18:27 of ice time.
"It's so hard in this league to build confidence; you're kind of starting from scratch. (Laine) knows what type of player he is, he knows what he's done in the past, but until you do it on this level, you have that little bit of doubt," Wheeler said.
"Once you saw him pop that one in, he took off."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
Did he ever.
Enjoy it, Jets fans. This kid is special.
Former Jet Lee Stempniak put the 'Canes in front 2-1 at 4:46 of the second period as part of a one-sided five-minute span that saw the Jets outshot 8-1. Stationed in front, Stempniak got his right foot on a long point shot by Noah Hanifin, skipping it over Hellebuyck's right pad for the go-ahead goal.
The Jets had a strong second half to the period, but the visitors took a commanding 3-1 lead into intermission, thanks to a controversial goal by Jordan Staal with just 31 seconds left. Dustin Byfuglien was tied up with Stalberg and had the stolen in the high slot. Staal jumped on it between the hash marks and fired a wicked wrister blocker side on the goaltender.
After Rask put the 'Canes up by three early in the third, the tide turned when Wheeler took control.
"We started getting a little bit quicker on the puck," he said. "When the momentum starts to change like that in this league, it's tough to stop it. Fortunately the clock didn't run out on us."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
It was a 1-1 game with the shots 10-6 in Carolina's favour after one period of play.
Matthias opened the scoring less than five minutes into the season, catching Ward off guard and driving a shot off the pad from well below the goal line to put the Jets in front on their second shot of the night.
Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner - a former Calder winner - tied it with 8:37 to play in the period. Skinner took a pass from Stempniak and buried the second of the two backhanders after the initial one was kicked out in tight by Hellebuyck.
LATE HITS: Bryan Little left the game late in the first period and did not return with a lower-body injury. Little went knee-on-knee with Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell, but did make it off under his own power before heading to the dressing room.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com