A switch to their first two forward lines did wonders for the Winnipeg Jets Monday night and they made sure their seven-game western road trip ended up being a successful one.
The new line of Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, and Kyle Connor combined for eight points, and the Jets defeated the Flames 5-1, taking two of three from Calgary, and finishing with a 4-3 record on the western road swing.
Scheifele and Ehlers each had three-point efforts with Scheifele notching a pair of goals.
“It’s awesome to end the road trip on such a good note,” said Scheifele. “It feels like we’ve been on the road all month. Those two games at home really didn’t even feel like we were at home since it was so quick.
“The boys are definitely excited to get home and it’s even better to end the road trip on a good win.”
The Jets completed a stretch that saw them play 12 of 14 games away from home.
It was yet another bounce-back game for the Jets who were coming off a loss at the hands of the Flames just 48 hours earlier. The Jets are now 9-1 following a regulation defeat this season.
“It was a bounce-back game for everyone tonight,” Ehlers said. “That’s what we do. That’s kinda our playoff mentality to bounce back after a loss. And we’ve been able to do it really well this season.”
“You want to re-group. You never want to have a bad game,” said Scheifele. “But you got to put it in the past. It’s a long season, so you got to put those in the past, work on your game, and come back even stronger.”
Jets head coach Paul Maurice flip-flopped his top two centreman and it paid immediate dividends with both of the new-look lines finding the scoresheet in the finale to the road trip.
“When you get to the end of a really, really long road trip and your team has played well and had a tough loss, sometimes you need something to kind of almost fire up a little interest,” said Maurice. “One of the coaches I used to work with, Kevin McCarthy always said – a change is as good as a rest.”
“We were able to find that chemistry right away tonight,” said Ehlers. “It was exciting. But we got to keep working on it.”
Connor Hellebuyck allowed a goal just 2:24 into the hockey game but was a brick wall the rest of the way. He made 29 saves and has now stopped 114 of the last 118 shots he faced over his last four starts, and didn’t let the early goal effect his play the rest of the game.
“I’m trying to pitch a perfect game no matter what,” Hellebuyck said. “If one beats me, that doesn’t change from my game plan. I want to show I’m a rock back there and anytime that I get beat, I’m gonna force them to make the perfect shot or at least try to. And then I’m going to show my team I’m not fazed.”
The race at the top of the North Division remains tight as Winnipeg (22-12-2) is now a point back of Toronto for first place and a point ahead of the Edmonton Oilers for second spot.
The Jets got behind the eight-ball early as Andrew Copp took a hooking penalty 33 seconds into the game and the Flames capitalized on the power play as Elias Lindholm scored his ninth of the season, converting a pretty tic-tac-toe play from Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau.
But the Jets fourth line evened the score later in the first as Nate Thompson deflected a Dylan DeMelo shot in with his skate, a goal that went to review but was ruled good. It was Thompson’s second of the season.
And then just over two minutes later, Scheifele converted a partial two-on-one as he one-timed a pass from Connor to give Winnipeg the lead.
Scheifele was back at it early in the second period firing home a rebound after a sweet effort by Ehlers to get him the puck for his second of the game and 15th of the season.
And then later in the second, the Jets converted a tic-tac-toe goal of their own as Copp tapped home his 11th of the season after Ehlers and Scheifele teamed up to get him the puck.
Scheifele’s three points put him fifth in NHL scoring with 43 points. Ehlers had three assists on the night, while Connor had a pair.
The other new forward line of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blake Wheeler and Paul Stastny got on the board early in the third as Dubois scored his seventh of the season.
The Flames’ (16-18-3) playoff hopes took another hit as they lost for the fifth time in their last six games and although they remain only two points behind Montreal for the division’s final playoff spot, the Habs have six games in hand on Calgary.
The Jets will now head home and welcome the first-place Maple Leafs to town.
The two teams square off Wednesday with the pregame show beginning on 680 CJOB at 4:30 p.m., with the puck dropping shortly after 6:30 p.m.
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