A first-period flurry of offence from the visiting Vancouver Canucks was the difference on Monday night.
The Canucks rode three deflections to an early three-goal lead in the opening frame – and didn’t let the Winnipeg Jets dig into that advantage for the rest of the game en route to a 4-0 win at Bell MTS Place.
Try as they might, the Jets (13-7-1) couldn’t solve goaltender Thatcher Demko as the Canucks ended a four-game losing streak.
The 25-year old stopped all 27 shots he faced for his first NHL shutout, earning the Canucks (9-14-2) their first shutout of the year – and becoming the first goaltender to hold the Jets scoreless so far this season.
“It’s just the way the game goes sometimes,” Jets forward Mark Scheifele said. “Sometimes the bounces are gonna your way, sometimes they’re not. You can’t beat yourself up about it, you got to keep playing, and we had our chances to score – we just got to capitalize.”
The Jets have won six games this season when trailing after 20 minutes, but they struggled to generate much in the way of offence on this night, and the comeback just wasn’t in the cards.
“We’ve shown an ability to fight back from that this year,” captain Blake Wheeler said. “Still felt we had a chance to claw our way back in the game. It was just too big of a hurdle tonight.”
The loss ended the Jets’ brief four game win streak, but that’s now back-to-back games where the Jets have failed to score a goal at 5-on-5.
“That’s the area that is consistent between the two,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “But different games here tonight. We gave up 41 (shots) or whatever we gave up the other night. An awful lot of offence we handed them. There wasn’t much for them, and there wasn’t much for us here tonight.
“I don’t think we gave up a whole heck of a lot. They get up 3-0 and they’re gonna sit on it a bit. So they stop forcing the issue, but we didn’t get our offensive game to where it needs to get to ’til the third.”
The Jets had won 12 of their previous 13 meetings with the Canucks, including a pair of wins only a little over a week ago.
Canucks defenceman Nate Schmidt opened the scoring 8:28 into the first period, ripping a one-timer off the blade of Andrew Copp’s stick and over the glove of Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
Before the hosts could even collect their thoughts following Schmidt’s goal, he did it again just 18 seconds later – this time, throwing a wrist shot on net that was tipped by J.T. Miller before beating Hellebuyck over the other shoulder.
Rookie Nils Hoglander scored the Canucks’ third deflected goal of the period on the games first power play, after tipping a shot from former Jet Tyler Myers.
The Canucks ended the first period with a dominant lead, despite the teams ending the frame tied in shots at seven, and vaulted into second place league-wide with 25 first-period goals.
Maurice made the first lineup move among his forwards in more than a week early on in the second period – sending Pierre-Luc Dubois down to his natural centre position on the second line with Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers, while Paul Stastny joined Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele on the top line.
“I didn’t think either line had much going,” Maurice said. “A little bit reticent to make that change because Stastny, Connor, and Ehlers have been so good. And were good again tonight.
“And then Paul goes on that line and all of sudden that line starts to generate some things net front. I think there’s lots there with Connor, Dubois, and Ehlers.”
Despite the shuffle, the Jets put only five shots on net in the scoreless middle frame.
The Canucks continued to stifle the Jets’ attack in the third, until Maurice pulled Hellebuyck for the extra attacker with more than five minutes left in the game.
Elias Pettersson iced the game with an empty-netter.
Hellebuyck stopped a few more Canucks shots after returning to the crease – but finished with a dreary .833 save percentage, making 15 saves on 18 shots.
In his third game filling in for the injured Tucker Poolman, defenceman Sami Niku logged 14:00 of ice time, the most he’s seen since the first game of the season.
The Canucks are now 9-2-2 when scoring first, compared to the club’s 0-12 record when allowing the game’s first goal.
The nine-game season series between the two clubs is now tied at two games apiece, with a rematch tomorrow night.
Kelly Moore hosts the pregame show live on 680 CJOB beginning at 5 p.m. – Jamie Thomas and Paul Edmonds have the call of the game at 7 p.m.
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