Jets Lose OT Heartbreaker in Pittsburgh

WINNIPEG, MB. – The Winnipeg Jets proved once again that they can play pretty good hockey with Connor Hellebuyck in net.

Even with only two scoring lines.

Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Phil Kessel beat Hellebuyck in overtime – on a clear-cut breakaway — to give the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins a 2-1 OT victory over the visiting Jets.

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Jets who got a great goaltending performance from Hellebuyck and had a number of solid chances to win the game in regulation time. The important thing for Winnipeg, however, was that their goaltender gave them a legitimate chance to win.

The Jets are now 4-3-1 on the season while Pittsburgh, the top team in the Metropolitan Division, improved to 7-3-1.

“It was an unusual game,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “Both teams looked like they were going to generate a lot of offence but the shots never got to the net or never got near the net.

“(Hellebuyck) was real strong, real solid. The shot by Crosby I think catches him him in the shoulder. You have been to be in the right spot to make a save like that and he had a bunch of those tonight. Disappointed in the outcome. We were even with them in the hockey part of it but they beat us in the skill part. We’ll just get ready and move on to the next one.”

It didn’t look good for the Jets in the early going as Conor Sheary scored for the Pens at 1:25 of the first period to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead but Maurice said his team got better in the second part of the opening period and he was right.

The Jets tied it at 9:26 of the first when Josh Morrissey fired a wrist shot from the points that beat Pens netmider Matt Murray.

Then, thanks to a solid penalty killing unit for the Jets and Hellebuyck’s brilliance, the game remained tied at 1-1 for the next 50-plus minutes. Hellebuyck faced 30 shots in the final 58 minutes of the game and turned them all aside until Kessel picked up a turnover in his own zone behind all of the attacking Jets and scored the overtime four-on-four winner at 1:07 of extra time.

“The team played really good in front of me,” said Hellebuyck. “They were blocking a lot of shots. I gotta have that save in overtime. I don’t know what I’m thinking. I almost read it too well. I knew he was going to go five hole and I’m thinking I’m gonna kick it out, but that’s not goaltending. I need to just drop into the butterfly and make the save like I’ve been working on all summer. I overthought it for a second.”

Blake Wheeler led the Jets in ice time, playing 24 minutes and 40 seconds. Mark Scheifele logged 24:20 and Dustin Byfuglien logged 24:14. Wheeler had four shots and two hits. Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Patrik Laine, Morrissey, Scheifele and Kyle Connor all had three shots each for Winnipeg. Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers had glorious scoring opportunities but couldn’t buried it behind Murray.

The Jets were outshot 36-31 (1-0 in overtime). Winnipeg was zero-for-two on the power play while the Penguins were zero-for-four.

The Jets now head to Columbus to face the 6-3-0 Blue Jackets on Friday night at 7 p.m. on TSN 3. The Jets return home to face the Penguins again on Sunday at 6 p.m. at Bell MTS Place. Game time is 6 p.m.

– Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports

Photo by James Carey Lauder

Editor of the popular Game On Hockey Magazine and The Point After Football Magazine, editor of Canadian Meat Business Magazine, sports editor of Grassroots News, TV play-by-play voice of the Winnipeg Goldeyes and author of the bestselling book: The Winnipeg Jets: A Celebration of Professional Hockey in Winnipeg. He likes virgin pina coladas, long walks on the beach, puppies and thoroughbred race horses that run according to form.
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