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Jets' defense shines again in win against Devils

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets returned home after a stretch of nine of 11 games on the road and continued their newfound defense-first approach with a 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at MTS Centre on Tuesday.

Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson made 21 saves in a win that began a three-game homestand for Winnipeg. The Jets have allowed 2.15 goals per game this season after finishing 22nd in the NHL last season (2.82).

Mathieu Perreault scored his first goal of the season for the Jets, and Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik also scored. Patrik Elias scored for the Devils, who opened a four-game road trip.

"After two [consecutive] losses, it was big to come home, and [to] play a game like that against a touch-checking New Jersey team like that was definitely huge," Scheifele said.

Goaltender Cory Schneider tied the Devils record with his 19th consecutive start and made 31 saves. With a start Friday against the Edmonton Oilers, Schneider could pass Martin Brodeur' record that was set in 2001-02.

Winnipeg held the Devils, the 29th-ranked team in shots per game, to four first-period shots, and New Jersey had nine shots at the end of the second period.

"When we're playing as well as we are, it's entertaining for me back there to watch our lines cycle the puck down low and really take it to them, so that keeps me in the game," Hutchinson said. "It's just a little bit difficult when you don't touch the puck as much."

Jets coach Paul Maurice had shuffled his lines in the third period of a 4-3 shootout loss Sunday against the Minnesota Wild after Scheifele left the game because of what appeared to be a knee injury. Scheifele was cleared to play Tuesday, and Maurice inserted him on a line with Frolik and rookie Adam Lowry.

The Jets grabbed a 2-0 lead with goals 1:44 apart early in the second period. Perreault backhanded a shot high over Schneider at 1:54, and Scheifele shoved a rebound under the Devils goalie at 3:38 for his third goal of the season.

Perreault had 18 goals last season with the Anaheim Ducks and had to adjust to shifting between center and left wing and the start of this season.

"When I struggle getting points, I've always talked to myself about throwing the body around, throw a couple hits, get yourself involved physically and I feel like I've been doing that the last couple of games," Perreault said. "And it helps me. For me, I've been working really hard and they weren't going in. I had the chances. I just kept working and eventually I knew it was going to go in."

New Jersey used the power play, which had one goal in 21 attempts in its past eight games, to halve Winnipeg's lead 1:13 into the third period when Elias squeezed a shot under Hutchinson for his second goal of the season. The goal broke a 17-game goalless streak for Elias, who hadn't scored since Oct. 9.

"In spite of however you want to think we played, we were in the game there," Schneider said. "We were [losing] 2-1 with five minutes to go, so we had a chance."

But when the Devils threatened in the third period, the Jets did not panic. Frolik put the Jets back ahead by two goals with 3:53 left in the game, beating Schneider off a cross-ice feed for his fourth goal. Frolik has three goals in his past four games after starting the season with one goal in his first 16 games.

"The bench is better," Maurice said. "There is an awareness that the game is starting to tilt on us. When things get running, there are enough lines on the bench that I can put out there and stem [opposition pressure] a bit."

Devils center Adam Henrique returned to the lineup after missing six games because of a lower-body injury. However, Henrique's return did not help to spark a New Jersey offense that has three goals in its past four games. The Devils, who have 2.42 goals per game this season, finished 27th in goals per game last season and 28th in the 2012-13 season.

"There's not a team, not a very good team, in the League that doesn't have three real good centermen," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "You know, three good offensive lines, or potentially offensive lines, and we've been trying to find that since day one."

For Hutchinson, the 24-year-old rookie has a .948 save percentage that ranks first in the League and 1.38 goals-against average. Though the Devils did not test Hutchinson often in the first two periods, he made 13 saves in the third period.

"Over the course of the game, I would think that [Winnipeg felt] comfortable and not threatened, and that's not a good thing," said Devils left wing Mike Cammalleri, who nearly tied the game in the third period with a shot off the post before Frolik scored. "We need to get to a point here where we start rolling a bit, so that's got to happen. We think the time is now for us to get going."

The Devils move on to Edmonton, where attempting to sync the various aspects of their game will be a focus. New Jersey has lost five of its past six road games.

"We haven't really played a whole 60 minutes as a team, whether it's me or the power play or the penalty kill or whatever," Schneider said. "All of us, I think we need to put our best 60-minute effort forward and see what can happen. We really haven't had that beginning-to-end dominant performance that I think we're capable of."

The Jets reached the 20-game mark with a 10-7-3 record that places them third in the Central Division. The Winnipeg franchise has not reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2007, and part of Maurice's mandate since replacing former coach Claude Noel has been to reshape the Jets' identity.

"We've made some progress in our team identity," Maurice said. "We're early on in the process, as every team is at this point, but we're off to a decent start."

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