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Patrik Laine makes own mark in Jets debut

No. 2 pick gets goal, assist in win against Hurricanes

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Given a near-impossible feat to match at MTS Centre on Thursday, Winnipeg Jets rookie left wing Patrik Laine said he just worried about doing his own thing.

The 18-year-old from Finland, the No. 2 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, was playing his first NHL game one night after the player picked ahead of him in June, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, scored four goals in his debut.

Matthews was the first player in the modern era (since 1943-44) to score four goals in the first game of his NHL career.

Laine didn't match it, but he had a goal and an assist in the final 10 minutes of the third period to help the Jets rally for a 5-4 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"He's playing his game and his career," Laine said of Matthews. "I don't want to match my game to his. He can score 20 goals in a game, I don't care. It's good for him. I'm just going to help my team to win with my things."

Video: CAR@WPG: Laine snipes first NHL goal on power play

Laine's things are a hard, accurate shot, and puck sense, qualities important in his breakout 2015-16 season, when he was on Finland's winning World Junior Championship team, named MVP of the playoffs in Finland's top league when his Tappara team won the title, and named MVP of the IIHF World Hockey Championship when Finland won the silver medal.

Against the Hurricanes, Laine had only a few good moments in the first two periods.

His first shot on goal came at 10:42 of the third period, then his next one was a snap shot that rang in off the right post behind screened Carolina goalie Cam Ward at 13:33. It was Winnipeg's first power-play goal in five opportunities and made it 4-3.

With Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck off for an extra attacker, Laine made a cross-ice pass deep in the zone to captain Blake Wheeler, and Wheeler put it on Mathieu Perreault's tape at the edge of the crease for the game-tying goal with 1:29 left.

Wheeler then set up Mark Scheifele for the game-winner on a 2-on-1 at 2:41 of overtime.

Perreault said Laine has been feeling pressure. The rookie played four preseason games without a point, and Matthews' performance Wednesday didn't reduce the attention.

"You can't match that," Perreault said. "Four goals? That's impossible.

"There's a lot of pressure on him. You can tell. You can tell he's feeling it. But I'm very happy to see how he responded late in the third when we absolutely needed a goal. The game had been absolutely [bad] for us all night and he comes up with a big goal. Now we have life, then he makes another good play and we have the tying goal. Even in overtime, he made a great play up the ice and I just missed. It's nice to see him perform that well in the third."

Video: CAR@WPG: Perreault's tip-in ties game late in the 3rd

Laine started at left wing with Perreault and rookie right wing Kyle Connor.

"So far in training camp and preseason, [Laine] probably didn't play up to the expectation of most people," Perreault said. "I've heard that he was a big-time player in big situations and he showed it tonight.

"In the third, when we absolutely needed it with our backs against the wall, he came up big with a goal and an assist at the end of the game. That's what those special players do, they step up at the right times."

With the Jets down 4-2 and about 10 minutes to go, coach Paul Maurice moved Laine up to play with Scheifele and Wheeler.

"I wouldn't say I was assessing his game and then waiting for a sign," Maurice said of Laine. "But it's the first game for our team as a group and for a couple of guys, and it's a different league and a different style of game, and it's a hard game to play and it was (against a team) with very good sticks and they're very strong on them.

"So a little confidence goes a long way."

Wheeler said confidence was the catalyst for Laine.

"It's so hard in this league to build confidence," Wheeler said. "You're kind of starting from scratch. He knows what type of player he is and he knows what he's done in the past, but until you do it on this level, you just have that little bit of doubt.

"I think once you saw him pop that one in, he took off. It wasn't just the chances he was creating, he was winning every puck battle. He looked like a real force out there."

Laine got a roar from the MTS Centre fans during introductions. When he scored in the third, fans were out of their seats with a standing ovation.

"I'd like to get a streak going, score some more goals," Laine said. "It was just easier and easier to play after the goal. There's so much energy when you score. It was an energy boost and it was nice to go out there."

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