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Wheeler scores second career hat trick in 7-1 Jets win over Pittsburgh

Lemieux scores first NHL goal; Armia, Scheifele, Copp add singles in the win

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

Video: POSTGAME | Jets 7 Penguins 1 - F

WINNIPEG - On any night, records can be broken.

Sunday night was one of those nights at Bell MTS Place.

Blake Wheeler became the first player in franchise history to score a hat trick in a first period, all part of a five-goal Jets outburst that sent the Pittsburgh Penguins to the next stop on their eight-game road trip with a 7-1 defeat.

"It felt really good to get the win. That's it," Wheeler said. "We're going to score goals. (Mark Scheifele), (Kyle Connor), and I are going to make plays. Ultimately though, we're worried about playing the right way, playing fast, trying to lead with the way we play. With that comes some scoring chances, and we're going to score on our fair share of them.

"It's all about getting two points. I think we have every guy pushing in that direction."

The Jets offense needed only 80 seconds to light the lamp, when after some offensive zone pressure, Shawn Matthias sent a quick pass to Andrew Copp at the top of the circle, and his one-timer beat the glove hand of Matt Murray, putting the Jets up 1-0.

Video: PIT@WPG: Jets strike thrice in 34 seconds

The lead increased to 2-0 with just over six minutes left in the opening frame. Scheifele slid a feed to Blake Wheeler under the stick of Pittsburgh's Ian Cole. The Jets captain made no mistake in front of Murray, faking backhand before sneaking a forehand through the five hole of the Penguins goaltender for his second of the season.

But Wheeler wasn't done. His second of the night - a deflection off a pass from Matthias to make it 3-0 - started a wild 34 seconds that saw Joel Armia score his second of the season to further increase the lead. Murray was pulled after that goal, giving way for Casey DeSmith.

The first shot DeSmith faced in his NHL career came off the stick of Wheeler, who beat Kris Letang with a nifty dangle to the inside, and followed that with another move the backhand that beat DeSmith, clinked the post, and found mesh for his first hat trick in Jets colours.

Add it up, and it was 5-0 after 20 minutes, and two more team records fell in the process, as the Jets set new marks for fastest three goals (34 seconds) and four goals (4:20) along the way.

Video: PIT@WPG: Wheeler dances by defender for hat trick

"We came out right, and we came out fast. We caught a team on the back-to-back, and converted some chances that we haven't in the last two. We finished on a lot of those plays," said head coach Paul Maurice.

"Real good jump, real good pace, good start, and that was enough to win a game."

After two Jets power plays couldn't push the lead further, the Penguins would strike on a man advantage of their own. With Bryan Little off for holding, Phil Kessel, looking for a deflection, sent the puck toward the net from Connor Hellebuyck's right side. The puck redirected off Evgeni Malkin and under the arm of Hellebuyck with 2:58 left in the second.

But that's all that got by Hellebuyck, who made 31 saves on the night, with 24 of them coming in the final 40 minutes.

"You have to expect that. They're a good team over there. They didn't have the start they wanted," Hellebuyck said of the push back from the Penguins. "We knew they were going to come out strong, and they wanted to fix what they had left behind.

"I think the guys enjoyed this one, and we'll look to continue it."

Video: PIT@WPG: Armia wrists in fourth Jets' goal of 1st

Then after Mark Scheifele's 4-on-3 power play marker restored the five-goal lead, Tyler Myers sent a slap pass to the high slot that Brendan Lemieux deflected past DeSmith for his first career NHL goal.

"I'm really fortunate to have been able to get one. I'm really excited. Every day I've been up here has been a blessing and I'm just trying to run with it," said Lemieux.

"Any time it comes it's obviously great. I'm really fortunate, and not a bad hockey team over there. So definitely some good memories I'll take from that."

The Jets now have points in seven of their last eight games, going 5-1-2 in that span, but Maurice says there is still work to do.

"We're on our way. We've got lots of room for growth in it, with and without the puck," he said. "There are some defensive concepts with the puck too about what's the next best play to make. What's the next smartest play to make? We can get a little better with that. But we've got lots of room to get better."


While the line of Wheeler, Scheifele, and Kyle Connor combined for nine points in the win, led by Wheeler's four, the team also got contributions from the third and fourth lines.

The lines of Copp, Matthias, and Tanev along with Armia, Lemieux, and Matt Hendricks, combined for three goals and seven points.

"You don't have to score to be a really important player on the team," said Maurice. "But they have to bring something else then. Tonight they had both, scored goals for us and played very well against the Malkin line, and killed penalties. Those are huge pieces to a team winning.

"They're doing more than just taking minutes. They're contributing to the way we play."

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