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Jets rise in standings, making opponents pay with NHL-best power play

Winnipeg leads League with 30.8 percent efficiency, won five straight games

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets have won nine of their past 10 games, and a hefty contribution from their power play ranks high among the reasons why.

In surging to first place in the Central Division with 46 points and a tie for first in the Western Conference with the Calgary Flames, the Jets (22-9-2) have also risen to the No. 1 ranking in the League with a power-play efficiency of 30.8 percent (33 goals in 107 opportunities). 

"It's what a good power play does; it has options," center Mark Scheifele said after the Jets defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 in overtime on Sunday for their fifth straight win. "Teams try to kill it and take away certain options, but we have a lot of other dangerous ones."

Captain Blake Wheeler, who leads the NHL with 18 power-play assists, usually quarterbacks the Jets' first power-play unit from the right side.

Video: CHI@WPG: Scheifele puts Jets ahead with swift tip-in

He has enviable options.

Scheifele, who plays in the middle and has seven goals and eight assists on the power play, is adept at finding soft spots and quick at shooting any puck that comes to him.

"I play with some pretty special players and play on a pretty special team and I'm just lucky to pop them in when I can," said Scheifele.

Across in the left-wing circle, lurks Patrik Laine, always ready to unleash his lethal one-timer. Laine leads the NHL with 10 power-play goals this season after leading the League with 20 in 2017-18.

Forward Kyle Connor, who plays low and is dangerous with his soft hands and his ability to distribute the puck, has six goals and four assists on the power play.

Should those forwards be covered, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien is ready to launch his booming shot from the point. He has one goal and 14 assists on the power play.

"There are five really good players that can all play well together," said Laine, who has 23 goals in 33 games, third in the League behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (29) and Jeff Skinner of the Buffalo Sabres (24).

"Every power play needs a passer who kind of runs the power play and I think it's good we have (Wheeler) running this. And he always has four good options, three one-timers and (Connor) down low."

Laine said the game of cat-and-mouse with opposition penalty-killers is constant.

Often, he finds himself closely watched near his favorite one-timer spot. In other games, teams collapse tightly on Scheifele in the middle.

"We're always taking what's given to us and all the teams play it differently," Laine said. "That's why we watch video and kind of know what to expect from the other team's PK.

"It's still a different game out there and you have to be able to adjust if it's different than what we've seen before. You have to pass the puck quick and shoot as many times as you can and then good things will happen, good chances."

Winnipeg is also getting power-play goals from its second unit.

In a run of nine power-play goals in 19 opportunities during the Jets' five-game winning streak, defenseman Josh Morrissey and forwards Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault have each scored.

Video: PHI@WPG: Morrissey nets one-timer for power-play goal

Perreault had his second power-play goal in the past three games when the Jets went 1-for-1 against the Lightning on Sunday.

Morrissey, who filled in on the first power-play unit when Byfuglien missed four games with an upper-body injury Nov. 29 to Dec. 4, said what makes the Jets' power play work so well is that it involves elite decision-makers.

"Mostly, it's about doing what we do best," Morrissey said. "We always talk about ... see the play that's there and make the play that's there. And we have high-end skill players that when they have to ad lib or adjust in a split second, they're able to do it."

Morrissey said the Jets are blessed with skilled players with hockey sense that can find openings.

"We're fortunate here that we've got some really high-end skill players, some high-end shooters, so again, when you have one extra guy, they can't cover everything," he said. "You have to take what they give you and those guys that are sort of the quarterbacks do a very good job of realizing what they're giving you and reading that defensive coverage."

With power-play goals in 26 of 33 games, including a streak of 11 straight games with at least one between Oct 14 and Nov. 9, the Jets have been able to make their plays and get their looks.

Winnipeg starts a three-game road trip with a game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET; TSN3, FSW, NHL.TV) with its confidence in the power play on the rise. It was also productive with the man-advantage in 2017-18, ranked fifth at 23.4 percent.

"We're starting to find our identity and starting to figure out our team a little bit and when things don't go right, we don't stray from what we know best," said Scheifele, who scored the game-winning goal against the Lightning and has three overtime game-winners in the past nine games and 21 goals this season. "That's the biggest thing we need to continue to think about and that's how we'll grow.

"The power play is going to change every game. We're on a good roll right now but we're going to go through a stretch when we don't score during the season. It's a matter of not getting away from what we do best and remembering those good times and fixing it when we're a little off."

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