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Jets find best way to relieve pressure is by letting go of doubt, anxiety

Raised expectations led to Winnipeg 'carrying too much'

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- A natural hat trick by Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers was the difference in a 5-2 victory against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Monday, and now the Jets (1-2-0) are breathing again.

Doubt was all around the Jets after their first two games of the season, maybe even inside their locker room.

Projected by many to take the next step on the improvement curve and qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, Winnipeg had stumbled badly in its first two games, a 7-2 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday followed by a 6-3 setback against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

Thirteen goals-against in two games was a lot of doubt, especially for a team that has vowed to be better defensively.

"It's been like we're playing the deciding game [of a playoff series] every night and it got away from them," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "We have to play harder, compete harder, but we have to do it through relaxing, playing the game and occasionally breathing.

"We have to play a hockey game as hard as you can. No less, but no more either.

"They're carrying too much for me."

Video: WPG@EDM: Ehlers records second career hat trick

Doubt threatened the Jets again Monday. After taking a 2-0 first-period lead, forwards Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers 40 seconds apart in the second period to make it 2-2.

Maurice called his time out at that point, helping to reset the Jets and stall the Oilers' momentum.

Ehlers restored Winnipeg's lead 3:15 later with the first of his three goals, then scored again 69 seconds after that.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler said discussion during the second-period time out was simple and to the point.

"Don't re-invent the wheel," Wheeler said. "Now's not the time to go take the lead. We needed to bang out a few good shifts and try to get the momentum back. I thought we did that."

And by doing those simple things right and not losing focus like they did against the Maple Leafs and Flames, the Jets did a world of good for their mental state moving forward.

"There probably won't be a single game we play all year where there's no adversity, where nothing goes against us, where it's just smooth sailing," Wheeler said. "It just doesn't happen in this League. So we need to learn how to deal with that. It's a maturity thing.

"We still have a young team and guys just have to build enough confidence in themselves. You respect the fact their team has some good players too, and bad things are going to happen, but let's get back to our game and just have confidence our game's going to prevail in the end."

The line of center Mark Scheifele (one goal, two assists), Ehlers (three goals, one assist) and Wheeler (three assists) combined for 10 points Monday while being matched against Oilers captain Connor McDavid (one assist) throughout the game.

Video: WPG@EDM: Scheifele spins and scores on Talbot

"This is what we can do when we play a consistent, hard game," said Scheifele, who has at least one point in each of the Jets' first three games. "It was against a good team tonight and we battled the adversity when they scored two goals.

"There was some anxiety, yes, losing the last two games, but for the most part we handled the adversity and did better after that."

The Jets finish their three-game road trip against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday (10 p.m. ET, TSN3, SNV, NHL.TV).

Their outlook for that game will not be significantly different, defenseman Jacob Trouba said.

"This proves nothing," said Trouba, who played a game-high 26:50 on Monday. "There wasn't any panic before. We lost two games. There may be bigger losing streaks than that, and maybe winning streaks too. I don't think there was too much angst. We just made an effort to keep a level head in that third period, something we need to keep doing."

Maurice singled out the defense pair of Trouba and Josh Morrissey, which also spent most of its time matched against McDavid's line Monday and said Scheifele's line was strong defensively as well as offensively.

"How they get the puck from our end to their end, it was simple," Maurice said. "They cut pucks off, got pucks deep and made real good decisions. [Scheifele] backchecked … and those are important things from a leadership point of view. That's as good a game as I've seen him play."

Scheifele, who finished seventh in the League last season with 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 79 games, said consistency, not one-game excellence, is the most important thing ahead.

"Our line felt good, but it has to be every night," he said. "It was a fun night with those two. Maybe it will be something consistent we'll get going."

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