Dave Lowry picked up his first NHL win as a head coach and the Winnipeg Jets entered the holiday break with a victory on Sunday afternoon.
The Jets extinguished the St. Louis Blues seven-game point streak, winning 4-2 to close out a three-game homestand at the Canada Life Centre.
It was the Jets’ final game before Christmas. Their next two games have been postponed, with the NHL putting a halt to all cross-border games temporarily, amid COVID-19 concerns.
Paul Stastny scored two goals and recorded his 500th career assist for a three-point effort.
“It’s nice to get it,” said Stastny. “It was a big game. It was a big win for us. I think something that we needed big time.”
Nikolaj Ehlers recorded four points, including a goal and three assists.
Mark Scheifele appeared snake-bitten in recent games, and after a number of glorious scoring chances early in the game, he broke through in the second period to score their second goal of the game. And his line with Stastny and Ehlers was dangerous all game.
“Seriously, the last couple games thought there was a brick wall there,” Scheifele said. “It was nice to get one, nice for our line to be playing pretty well tonight, and making some good plays.
“They were both making great plays. They were both in the right spots, so it was a good game.”
Lowry earned his first NHL victory as a head coach in just his second game behind the bench as the boss after replacing Paul Maurice on Friday.
“Feels great,” said Lowry. “I thought our guys played an outstanding game tonight, competed, did everything that we wanted to do.
“I think we realized the importance of the game, obviously being a division game, and where we are in the standings, and the week that we have lying ahead of us, we knew that we have to play a certain way to give ourselves a chance to win, and we were able to do that tonight.”
Kristian Reichel and CJ Suess were recalled from the Manitoba Moose earlier in the day, and both were in the lineup after recent injuries to David Gustafsson, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Blake Wheeler.
It was Reichel’s NHL debut and he had just 4:27 of ice time playing on the fourth line in the win.
“I think every kid has a dream to play in the NHL one day,” said Reichel. And that dream just came true today. All the work I put in throughout the years, just paid off today. I was super excited.”
Less than seven minutes into the game Nathan Bealieu and Dakota Joshua squared off at centre ice. Beaulieu waved off the linesman before landing a couple more punches. Joshua wrestled him to the ice and they both sat down for five minutes.
Ehlers left the game briefly after having his face plastered into the glass in a check by Logan Brown. Brown was given a two-minute penalty for boarding, and Ehlers returned to the game before the end of the period after being pulled by the concussion spotters.
“I said I was fine, cause I was fine,” said Ehlers. “I don’t think the hit was awful. He’s a big boy. I was kinda standing with my side to the boards and hit my head into the boards.”
It was a scoreless opening period with shots 11-9 for Winnipeg.
Only five minutes into the second period, Mark Scheifele sent a pass in front. From the edge of the crease, Ehlers buried it for his 12th goal of the season. Ehlers immediately grabbed the puck for Stastny’s 500th career NHL assist. The play gave the Jets a one-goal lead.
With a little over six minutes to go, Ivan Barbashev slid the puck through the crease and Vladimir Tarasenko one-timed it past Hellebuyck. Tarasenko’s 12th of the season tied the game at one apiece.
But exactly three minutes later, the Jets took advantage of a Blues’ turnover. Ehlers stole the pass along the boards, setting up Scheifele, and from the high slot, Scheifele sent in a wrister to bulge the mesh behind Jordan Binnington. The Jets gained a one-goal lead. They outshot the Blues that period 12-11.
The Jets would notch an insurance marker early in the final frame. Stastny took a loose puck off the end boards and tucked it in from a sharp angle for his sixth goal of the campaign.
The Blues cut into the lead with a shorthanded goal. Off the rush, Niko Mikkola deposited a pass from Pavel Buchnevich and it was back to a one-goal game.
But only 16 seconds later, Ehlers set up Stastny on the power play for his second of the game, making it a 4-2 final score.
Hellebuyck made 26 saves for the victory. Binnington had 30 stops for St. Louis.
Jets defenceman Nate Schmidt did not play because of an illness.
The Jets aren’t scheduled to play again until December 27 when they’ll host the Minnesota Wild.
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