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Wheeler propels Jets past Penguins in record-setting first period

Forward gets hat trick among four goals for Winnipeg in 4:20 span

by Scott Billeck / NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- Blake Wheeler had a hat trick in a record-setting first period to help the Winnipeg Jets to a 7-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bell MTS Place on Sunday.

Wheeler's hat trick was the first to be scored in the first period in Jets/Atlanta Thrashers history.

 

[WATCH: All Penguins vs. Jets highlights]

 

"It felt really good to get the win, that's it," Wheeler said. "We're going to score goals. Ultimately though, we're worried about playing the right way. Playing fast. Trying to lead with the way we play and with that comes some scoring chances and we're going to score on our fair share.

"It's all about getting two points [in the standings]. We have every guy pushing in that direction."

The Jets set a franchise record with five goals in the first period.

Wheeler scored three times in 4:20, breaking the previous Winnipeg/Atlanta record held by Ilya Kovalchuk, who had a hat trick for the Thrashers in 6:51 during the second period of an 8-4 win at the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 15, 2009.

In the same span, the Jets scored the quickest four goals in franchise history, breaking the previous record of 4:54 set by the Thrashers in a 7-6 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 13, 2005. Three of those goals came in 34 seconds, faster than the previous Winnipeg/Atlanta record of 59 seconds set by the Thrashers in a 5-4 loss at the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 2, 2008.

Brendan Lemieux scored his first NHL goal, and Andrew Copp, Joel Armia and Mark Scheifele each had a goal for Winnipeg (5-3-2). Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves for his fifth win.

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

Evgeni Malkin scored for Pittsburgh (7-5-1). Matt Murray allowed four goals on nine shots and was pulled in the first period. Casey Desmith made 12 saves in his NHL debut.

Video: PIT@WPG: Malkin tips feed through five-hole for PPG

Copp scored his first of the season at 1:20 of the first period to give the Jets a 1-0 lead.

Wheeler made it 2-0 at 13:58. Scheifele found Wheeler with a backhand pass in the neutral zone, and Wheeler went forehand to backhand and slid it under Murray.

"Our starts, you look at all those, we get scored on early and teams build on that," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "It's not like we're giving up one in the first, we're giving up a bunch and in this case, five. We've been here before, we've got to find a way to fix it."

Wheeler scored his second of the game at 17:44 to make it 3-0, and Armia scored 23 seconds later to give the Jets a 4-0 lead at 18:07, prompting Penguins coach Mike Sullivan to replace Murray with Desmith.

But Wheeler completed his hat trick 11 seconds later at 18:18, scoring on the first shot Desmith faced.

Video: PIT@WPG: Wheeler records hat trick in 1st period

"I was kind of like, 'Oh, this is happening, this is going to be the ol' debut here,'" Desmith said. "Then I got in there and they scored that shift, first shot, so not ideal."

Malkin scored his fourth goal in his past seven games, a redirect on the power play at 17:02 of the second period to make it 5-1.

Scheifele made it 6-1 on the power play at 10:28 of the third period. Lemieux scored to make it 7-1 at 12:19.

 

Goal of the game

Wheeler's first goal at 13:58 of the first period.

Video: PIT@WPG: Wheeler slips one through Murray's five-hole

 

Save of the game

Hellebuyck stopping Malkin at 11:51 of the first period.

Video: PIT@WPG: Hellebuyck robs Malkin's close-range wrister

 

Highlight of the game

Wheeler's third goal at 18:18 of the first period.

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

 

They said it

"It's disappointing. We talk about doing the right things, we talk about managing the puck the right way, we talk about staying on the right side of people and then we go out and our actions are just the opposite. We turn the puck over a handful of times, we gave up some high-quality chances and they converted. It's hard to win when you play that way." -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan

 

"The last three games have all been really good. Going into those buildings against those teams, who are going to be two of the better teams this year, we had every right winning those games too. I think it's a progression. The last week has been pretty good. Like I said, we were able to make the plays tonight that maybe we missed out on in Columbus. If you play the right way, the same way every night, you're going to get scoring chances and we were able to bury them tonight." -- Jets forward Blake Wheeler

 

Need to know

Malkin has nine points (four goals, five assists) in the past seven games. … Jets forward Kyle Connor has four points (one goal, three assists) in his past five games.

 

What's next

Penguins: At the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SN1, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV)

Jets: At the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, TSN3, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Wheeler, Jets roll past Penguins, 7-1

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