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NHL Heritage Classic

Jets hoping to build on win against Flames in Heritage Classic

Comeback can provide spark to end scoring woes

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

REGINA, Saskatchewan -- The Winnipeg Jets have been struggling to score while trying to get comfortable with a reshaped group of defensemen.

That's why a result like their come-from-behind 2-1 overtime win against the Calgary Flames in the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday might have some extra value.

"We're going to try to leverage it in that way," coach Paul Maurice said after winning the NHL's 28th outdoor regular-season game. "The bench was great. It gets to keep the idea that we can come back. We already have in games, in [New] Jersey (against the Devils, 5-4 in a shootout Oct. 4).

"The style of offense changed [against the Flames]. We got a little harder to the net. We've been preaching that pretty hard for a while so there are some good things from a coach's point of view."

Video: Jets rally to defeat Flames in OT in Heritage Classic

Winnipeg (6-6-0) has scored 30 goals in 12 games this season, including nine goals in its past six games. It is 2-4-0 in that span.

Forward Patrik Laine assisted on defenseman Josh Morrissey's game-tying goal at 15:49 of the third period in the Heritage Classic, his first point in four games.

Laine said he's hoping that contributing to the win will open the floodgates for himself and for his teammates.

"I guess we hope so," said Laine, who has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 12 games. "It's been kind of a tough stretch, especially scoring goals. I think we were kind of struggling for 50 minutes in this game too. But 2-1 was enough tonight, and hopefully that will get us back on track."

Also among the hard-luck forwards recently is captain Blake Wheeler, who has no points in six games and six points (three goals, three assists) in 12 games this season.

Wheeler said it may take still more determination to turn the offensive struggles around.

"It felt that way after the Edmonton game, too," he said of a 1-0 shootout win against the Oilers on Oct. 20. "It's just, I think, 5-on-5, we're a little bit too perimeter. We do a great job on the forecheck, we win a lot of puck battles, we come up with a lot of pucks off dumps and have a lot of possession time in the O zone, but it's a lot of standing around and moving around and we get a shot through and then there's nobody in front.

"So I think we maybe have to put a little bit more of an emphasis to putting some bodies to the net and trying to get a bounce to squirt out to give us an empty net, do it that way."

Persistence will be one of Winnipeg's strong suits in the long run, Wheeler said. It showed up against the Flames in the Heritage Classic.

"It's a real grind for us right now," Wheeler said. "It's a tough time to get a bounce or even their first goal (a power-play goal by Elias Lindholm at 14:47 of the second period), we had a lot of angles showing that as a high stick (by Matthew Tkachuk).

"It's one of those things where you're just going through a rut and it seems like everything goes against you. I think we've got enough guys in this room, a locker room full of guys that just stay with it and keep grinding and show up every day with that mentality. I guess when you do that the tide turns at some point, so luckily we didn't run out of time [tonight]."

Video: CGY@WPG: Little talks about overtime winner

Nothing will get easier for the Jets in the short term. From the Heritage Classic, which was their home game, they start a three-game road trip at the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; ESPN+, PRIME, TSN3, NHL.TV). They also play at the San Jose Sharks on Friday and at the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.

Among the good signs for the Jets: They have won two of their past three games by showing a little more cohesion with a defense that has only two players, Morrissey and Dmitry Kulikov, returning from last season.

In the past three games, the Jets have allowed four goals. A big part of that is No. 1 goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who has a goals-against average of 1.28 and save percentage of .960 in that span.

"He's been great," Laine said of Hellebuyck, who made 29 saves against the Flames. "Every night he gives us a chance to win. Tonight we were struggling to score, and he kept us in the game. It could have been 3-0 and the game's pretty much done. He gave us a chance to win again, and we took advantage of that. It was a huge win for us and for [him] as well."

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