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Wheeler scores late to push Jets to win in Buffalo

Hellebuyck makes 35 saves to help Jets move to 35-18-3

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

BUFFALO, New York - With the game tied late in the third, the Winnipeg Jets top line took over the game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Blake Wheeler capped off an excellent shift with his linemates Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor, pinning the Sabres in their own zone. That shift was capped off with defenceman Josh Morrissey pinching down the left side and slipping a perfect feed to Wheeler for the tap-in.

That put the Jets in front 2-1 with 3:55 left in regulation. Add an empty-netter from Scheifele, and the Jets finished the three-game road trip off with a 3-1 win over the Sabres.

"When you've lost three straight and you're reeling a little bit, you're not always necessarily going to come out and blow the doors off the team you're playing. These guys are fighting for a playoff spot," said Wheeler. "I thought we did a really good job of staying patient with that game, doing all the things we preach before the game and finally got rewarded."

Video: WPG@BUF: Wheeler buries perfect pass for lead

With both teams on the back end of back-to-back games, Maurice said the key to all of his lines having energy late was his ability to roll the bench. Andrew Copp not only scored a shorthanded goal to open the scoring - part of a perfect five-for-five night on the penalty kill for Winnipeg - but he finished with over 10 minutes of ice time as well.

It's the sixth win the Jets have earned in the second half of eight back-to-back sets they've played this season.

"We found a way to win," said Maurice, who was also complimentary of the team's defencemen.

"We're a pretty powerful team on the back end of back-to-backs this year… Part of it is Copp's line again was effective. I lost them in the second period because of all the power plays, but they came back out and I rolled them right through the third."

After a scoreless first period, the Winnipeg Jets got on the board while killing a Mark Scheifele hooking penalty. Bryan Little's clear bounced pass the Rasmus Dahlin sending Andrew Copp in alone on Carter Hutton. Copp fired a wrist shot past Hutton on the glove side for Winnipeg's seventh shorthanded goal of the season.

Buffalo got back on level ground with 7:59 to go in the second. Seconds after Little's slashing minor expired, Jack Eichel's wrist shot from the right circle beat Connor Hellebuyck on the stick side.

"We kind of gave up the one, but it was a really good shot. I thought our sticks were pretty decent on their entries, and they've got some skill, so those are hard sticks to have," said Copp, whose shorthanded marker was the second shorthanded breakaway the Jets had in the game.

"They just come with so much speed and they try to make plays at the line. If we do get a good stick, you know there is going to be that opportunity."

Video: WPG@BUF: Copp beats Hutton's glove for SHG

But that was the only one to get by Hellebuyck, who followed up his 48-save performance in Montreal with a 35-save effort in Buffalo.

"I like afternoon games. Something about them suits me well. I came to the rink excited to play and I had some fun out there today," said Hellebuyck.

"We were going through a little bit of adversity. It's good in this locker room. It shows guys have to dig in a little deeper and that's when you come closer as a team. That being said I thought tonight is the way we want to play."

Shots on goal in the third period finished in a 9-9 tie, but it was Winnipeg's final two that sealed the win.

Wheeler's 12th of the season was one he felt his line deserved after combining for 12 shots in Saturday's loss to the Ottawa Senators.

"Our line, we expect to be productive and we expect to make plays. There are going to be times in a long season when it doesn't happen and bounces don't go your way," said Wheeler.

"We had a lot of offensive zone time, a lot of looks, and we finally got rewarded at the end. That's something we can build off of."

Scheifele finished off the scoring with his team-leading 28th, sending the Jets home with a 38-15-3 record.

Next up, the Jets host the New York Rangers to start a three-game home stand on Tuesday.

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