Ehlers’ Hat, Hellebuyck’s Effort Lead Winnipeg to First Win
WINNIPEG, MB. – Nikolaj Ehlers scored a natural hat-trick while goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped 37 shots as the Winnipeg Jets finally got into the win column on Monday night.
After falling to 0-2-0-0 with a 7-2 loss at home to Toronto and a 5-2 loss in Calgary, the Jets went into Edmonton and surprised the heavily-favoured Oilers 5-2.
And they did it without veteran defenseman – and the team’s consistent leader in icetime – Dustin Byfuglien. Joel Armia, who had a frustrating game in Calgary, was a healthy scratch.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Hellebuyck made his season debut and put on a show. The tall, American-born netminder stopped all 20 shots he faced in the first period as the Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Mark Scheifele, his third of the year, and Dmitry Kulikov with his first.
In the second period, the Jets outshot Edmonton 19-7, but the Oilers came back with two goals to tie the game. Leon Draisaitl scored at 12:53 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tied things up just 40 seconds later with his second of the year at 13:33.
But unlike Saturday’s game in Calgary where the Jets took a 3-1 lead and then gave up five in a row, this time Winnipeg had an answer for Edmonton. And that answer was Nikolaj Ehlers.
Ehlers scored his first of the year from Jacob Trouba and Hellebuyck at 16:48 and then scored his second of the season at 17:57 from Blake Wheeler and Scheifele.
In the third period, Ehlers scored his third straight goal and third of the season on the power play at 18:46 – again Scheifele and Wheeler assisted — to put a bow on the Jets first win of the 2017-18 season. It was the second hat-trick of Ehlers’ career.
While Ehlers had three goals and an assist (that ties his career high with four points in a single game), Scheifele had a goal and two assists, Wheeler had three assists and Kulikov had a goal and an assist, rookie Tucker Poolman had a surprisingly good debut for the Jets. Making his NHL debut, the 23-year-old freshman from the University of North Dakota had two shots, a hit, a takeaway and two blocked shots in 14 minutes and 30 seconds of icetime. While the stars certainly did their jobs on Monday night, it was nice to see a rookie step in for a veteran like Byfuglien and not look at all out of place.
Jacob Trouba led the Jets with 26 minutes and 50 seconds of icetime and he was plus one with an assist, three shots, two hits, two takeaways and two blocked shots. Josh Morrissey played 23 minutes and 41 seconds and had a shot, two hits and three blocked shots.
The Jets outshot Edmonton 43-39 after being outshot 20-11 in the first period. Cam Talbot made 38 saves in the Oilers net.
The 1-2-0-0 Jets play again on Thursday night in Vancouver. Game time on Thursday is 9 p.m. and it’s on TSN3.
Scott Taylor, MyToba News
Photo by James Carey Lauder