It wasn’t always pretty but the Winnipeg Jets got out in front and held on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 at Canada Life Centre Friday night.
The first 20 minutes came and went without much drama as each team had a power play chance but failed to convert.
Kyle Connor had the best chance of the period in the final minute when he was sprung on a breakaway. Connor was denied by former teammate Eric Comrie and he couldn’t get a stick on the rebound as the game remained goalless after one.
It didn’t take long for Winnipeg to change that in the second.
Cole Perfetti got the Jets on the board first at the 2:12 mark when he took a pass from Vladislav Namestnikov in transition, skated into the slot and wired a shot through Comrie. That extends Perfetti’s goal-scoring streak to five straight games.
Just over two minutes later, Mason Appleton doubled Winnipeg’s lead when he charged hard to the net and steered into the net a perfect pass from Nino Niederreiter.
The two-goal lead lasted 33 seconds. The puck bounced towards Connor Hellebuyck and he steered it away from the crease but into the slot where Alex Tuch was first to find it and he potted it to make it a 2-1 game.
After a Winnipeg power play came and went, the Sabres tried to clear the puck but Nikolaj Ehlers stopped it right in front of the Jets bench. He sent a seemingly harmless wrist shot toward the net but Comrie was screened by Owen Power and never saw it as it sailed past him to make it 3-1 at the 8:12 mark.
Winnipeg held onto that lead heading into the second intermission, despite getting outshot 10-5 in the period by Buffalo. Shots overall after 40 minutes favoured the Sabres 16-12.
Just a minute into the third, the Sabres made things much more interesting as JJ Paterka cut the lead in half. He was sprung on a breakaway thanks to a great stretch pass from Rasmus Dahlin and while he was denied on his first shot, he put home the rebound to make it 3-2.
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Buffalo came extremely close to tying the game a few minutes later when a shot from Jordan Greenway glanced off the skate of Victor Olofsson, forcing Hellebuyck to make a great toe save. Moments later, Dahlin was denied on a partial break and nearly batted the rebound out of midair and into the net, hitting the puck off Hellebuyck’s mask before it landed on the top of the net.
The Sabres continued to put the pressure on the Jets but failed to get the equalizer before former Winnipeg ICE standout Zach Benson was called for high-sticking with 2:16 to go.
The Jets ran out most of the clock before Buffalo could pull the goalie, but they were able to mount about 30 seconds of pressure at the end. There was a mad scramble near the crease but the Sabres couldn’t find a good shooting lane as the clock expired.
Hellebuyck was huge for the Jets in this one, turning aside 25 shots in the win.
Winnipeg will be right back in action Saturday as they host the Arizona Coyotes with the puck dropping shortly after 6 p.m.