Winnipeg is fighting desperately to secure a playoff spot amidst a crowded field. The Wild Card race is, in a word, eventful. While there have been some opportunities to gain ground on opponents, the Jets have found themselves barely keeping pace while teams that were previously trailing them have roared to life. Everyone is suddenly sprinting to the finish, and the West has become a very compelling race. Tonight marked a stiff test against the visiting Vegas Golden Knights. Could the Jets get a small measure of revenge against a newly-minted nemesis?
That answer was provided rather early, with Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine combining for a goal in the first minute. Marc-Andre Fleury got caught out of his net and Ehlers banked the puck off of Ryan Reaves while attempting a wraparound. The Jets continued to buzz around Fleury, creating some excellent high-danger opportunities that Vegas had no answer for. An early Jets power play then led to a Laine blast, putting Winnipeg in control at 2-0. The Knights started to push aggressively afterwards, but Connor Hellebuyck said “NOPE”. For a modicum of insurance, Kyle Connor capped the period off with a nice goal on a 2-on-1 break.
The rest of the game saw the Knights generally controlling play and testing Hellebuyck from a variety of angles. I felt like the Jets, while attempting to manage the game, did keep the crease a bit clearer than they have in past games. I’m not a fan of them dumping the puck into the NZ or icing it, but they were able to prevent the Knights from getting some second chance opportunities that probably would have found twine. Mathieu Perreault capped a sterling game with a nice power play goal before the end of the second period. It was met with uproarious applause and a standing ovation, rightly so, if I might add.
The third period was more of the second period, and more of Hellebuyck being a bad, bad man. He finished the game with 29 saves on 29 shots, recording his sixth shutout of the season. This was also his twentieth career shutout, and it was well-earned. Overall, I’m happy with this victory and will always take a win against Vegas. It would be better if the Jets maybe skate more than 20 minutes, but I understand it after going up 3-0.
Mathieu Perreault was back in a big way.
Perreault and his fourth line compatriots ran wild against Vegas. That unit could have had two or three goals, in fairness. It’s nice to see the French connection return to full health, and he was as energetic as ever. Perreault’s power play goal was a due reward for his hard work.
Connor Hellebuyck. MVP. Vezina.
Need I say more?
Patrik Laine was baller.
The Finnish sniper’s evolution into a complete player has been a sight to see. Tonight was one of his best efforts, with numerous backchecks, great passes, and 2 points on the evening. I’m so happy Laine has rounded out his game, though I do wish he had more goals as a reward. That said, Good Laine always makes me happy so I have no complaints.