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Wheeler helps Jets top Coyotes

Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers add others, while Hellebuyck stops 23 in a 3-2 win

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick /

GLENDALE, Arizona - Pro athletes will try just about anything to snap out of a skid.

Cold showers, new gear, dousing your stick in a cold quart of Irish whisky, as TSN play-by-play man Dennis Beyak once heard… You know, the usual.

For Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who had gone 13 games without a goal after scoring in each of the first three to start the season, the voodoo method seems to have done the trick.

Wheeler tried a variety of different sticks at the game-day skate, including Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine's red-hot Bauer brands, and the early signs were positive. He was ripping goals like a young…well, Blake Wheeler.

He started the game with a dark-coloured Bauer - a notable departure from his usual black-and-white Warrior - but that didn't last.

"I got rid of that thing after one shift," the captain said with a laugh. "That's his stick. He can have it."

Worth a shot, right?

He only needed one, anyway.

Video: WPG@ARI: Wheeler beats Domingue with quick wrister

Wheeler gave the Jets a 2-1 lead with a goal midway through the second period with a goal that would have stood as the game winner if it weren't for Tobias Rieder's late tally, but was equally important, helping the visitors to a 3-2 win.  

Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers had the others for Winnipeg, while Connor Hellebuyck - who was absolutely terrific - stopped 23 in his fourth straight start.

Ehlers gave the Jets a 3-1 lead with just over three minutes to play, jumping on a loose puck in the slot after Coyotes defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson made an ill-advised pass up at the middle, that deflected off the stick of the pressuring Laine.

Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler

"We didn't really have our best game and we found a way to win," Wheeler said. "There's going to be nights like that, where you just don't really have it, but you have a lead and figure out how to scratch and claw out two points, so that's a good sign"

Wheeler broke a 1-1 tie 10:18 of the middle frame after the road squad survived a "casual" first period. Nic Petan showed great vision on his off wing, buying time along half wall before dishing back to the captain at the top of the circle. Wheeler pulled back into a shooting lane and ripped a one-timer top shelf on Louis Domingue, giving him his first goal since Oct. 17.

Shots favoured the Coyotes 8-3 after one period of play.

"I thought the first 15 minutes of the second period and our third were good, with our third being our best," Head Coach Paul Maurice said. "We struggled with maybe coming off an eight-goal night and thought we were going to do this a bit differently, but it's a good sign when you can make the necessary adjustments in your game, build on it throughout the night and play your best in a 2-1 lead game."

Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice

Copp drew first blood for the Jets at 4:49, keeping the puck on a 2-on-1 with Brandon Tanev and firing a shot under the arm of Arizona goalie Louis Domingue.

Copp now has three points (2G, 1A) in his last four periods after moving from centre to left wing.

"I'm definitely getting some confidence with the puck now," he said. "My line's playing well, we're finding each other in the offensive zone. Hopefully we can keep it going"

Mark Scheifele did some great work at the blue line, fighting off the physical Luke Schenn before finding Copp in full flight. With the assist, Scheifele now has an NHL-best 19 points (9G, 10A) in just 15 games.

Tweet from @SNstats: #NHLJets Mark Scheifele has an NHL-best 50 points since February 23. He has 10 more points than any other player in that span

Radim Vrbata tied things up near the midway mark of the period, unloading a bomb from the right circle that beat Hellebuyck clean on the far side after Manitoba native Jordan Martinook won a battle down low.

"We weren't moving our feet when we were trying to move the puck in the first period," Maurice said of what got cleaned up over the final 40. "We skated better, simplified some of the things we did and then got some zone time and were pretty good in the offensive zone."

It the only shot that beat Hellebuyck in more than 59 minutes of game play. The goalie was otherwise outstanding, making several key stops late in the third - including a breakaway by Rieder, and a great chance for Anthony Duclair in tight - to preserve the victory.

- Ryan Dittrick,

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