Michiganders Connor Hellebuyck and Kyle Connor were front and centre in Detroit Thursday night as the Winnipeg Jets downed the Red Wings 4-1 for their third straight win.
Connor scored again, and Hellebuyck made 35 stops in their homecoming in front of friends and family as the Jets went over the .500 mark for the first time this season.
Nikolaj Ehlers, Mason Appleton, and Nino Niederreiter also scored goals for Winnipeg.
The Jets got out to a two-goal lead, the Red Wings had a strong pushback in the second and to start the third period, but the Jets weathered the storm to start the two-game road trip off on the right note.
“We knew they were coming there in that third period,” said interim head coach Scott Arniel. “And they did. They’re a quick team and they’re a skilled team and they got us back on our heels. But I thought after that, we finally got to that timeout and kinda reset ourselves and got going and did a better job of managing the puck. But, real proud of the effort, everybody chipping in. Lots of good things from all the lines.”
Detroit outshot Winnipeg 19-8 in the final frame and 36-29 overall.
“Towards the end of the second and early in the third, they really jumped on us for a little bit,” said Appleton. “We got a timely goal, kinda took the wind out of their sail a bit. But on the road, a 2-1 game, that’s what you want going into the third. And we battled our buts off tonight and we earned that win.”
Appleton had a goal and an assist and now has three goals in the first seven games after scoring just five times all last season.
The Red Wings won five of their first seven games and entered the contest with one of the league’s top ranked power plays. But it was a perfect night for the Jets penalty kill as Detroit went 0-for-2 with the extra attacker.
“I thought we did a good job, honestly,” Appleton said. “They had a couple looks, but for the most part, we talked pucks out of the zone, got clears when we got the puck on our stick, and we held them to the outside, didn’t give up many seam plays.
“That was probably our most efficient game on the kill to date I’d say.”
After allowing at least four goals in all of his first three starts, Hellebuyck has been lights out the past three games and regained his Vezina-type form, allowing two goals or fewer in his last three consecutive starts.
“It’s Bucky. You know you’re getting a 100 per cent every single game,” said Ehlers. “Good for him, at home with a lot of friends and family. It’s pretty awesome.”
The Red Wings penalty kill was tested early as they took a pair of minor penalties in the opening four minutes but they managed to kill off both before they had their own unsuccessful power play ahead of the midway point of the first.
But with less than four minutes to go in the opening frame, Winnipeg broke the deadlock with a quick double-dip, netting two goals in 62 seconds.
The first came at the 3:28 mark when Cole Perfetti sent a perfect pass from the point to the slot where Ehlers turned and fired a perfect shot that beat James Reimer high.
Just over a minute later, Josh Morrissey intercepted a clearing attempt and sent the puck toward the net, where it bounced off a defender right to the stick of Connor. The native of Shelby Township, Michigan blasted the puck past an unsuspecting Reimer to double Winnipeg’s lead through 20 minutes.
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Detroit cut into the lead just over three minutes into the middle frame thanks to Lucas Raymond. The Wings cycled the puck to the point where Dylan Larkin fired a shot towards Connor Hellebuyck. The Commerce, Michigan native made the initial save but Raymond swept the rebound home to make it 2-1.
It stayed 2-1 through the end of the period, with the best chance of changing that going to Connor. Mark Scheifele made a terrific behind-the-back pass from behind the Wings’ net to Connor parked in front but he couldn’t elevate the puck over Reimer to seal off what would have been a highlight-reel tally.
Winnipeg held a 21-17 edge in shots on goal through 40 minutes but Detroit turned that around right from the start of the third, firing nine shots at Hellebuyck in the opening four minutes but the score remained 2-1.
The Wings kept up the pressure, earning their second power play of the game when Morrissey was called for high-sticking at the 5:34 mark of the period.
Detroit’s second-ranked power play, which had scored 12 goals through their first seven games, managed five shots in the two minutes but Hellebuyck continued to stand tall.
At that point in the third, eight minutes in, Detroit had outshot Winnipeg 15-4. But just past the midway point, the Jets doubled their lead.
Niederreiter carried the puck into the Detroit zone before dishing it to a cutting Adam Lowry. He took the puck to the right of Reimer before sending it in front to a wide-open Appleton, who steered the puck off Reimer’s skate and in for his third of the season.
With just under 2:30 to go, the Red Wings pulled Reimer to try and overcome the two-goal deficit. After Hellebuyck made a few more stops, Niederreiter scored into the empty net for his first of the season, sealing an impressive road win for the Jets.
Hellebuyck turned aside all 19 he faced in the third. He’s stopped 91 of 96 shots in Winnipeg’s three-game win streak after a rough start to the season.
The Jets are now 4-3 as they head to Montreal to take on the Canadiens Saturday night. The puck drops a little after 6 p.m. with pregame coverage starting at 4 p.m. on 680 CJOB.
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