After a stretch of quiet play from the Winnipeg Jets’ big guns, the top line came through in a big way in a 5-2 win in St. Louis Tuesday night.
The Jets top trio of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele, and Alex Iafallo combined for 10 points as they closed out the road trip with back-to-back wins.
“When those three are playing like that, they’re hard to play against,” said interim head coach Scott Arniel. “It felt like they had the puck the whole game, it really did. And that was great to get those guys on the scoresheet.”
Connor scored twice and added an assist, Scheifele had a goal and two helpers, and Iafallo pitched in with four assists as the Jets improved to 3-0 against the Central Division this season.
“We were having fun out there,” Iafallo said. “I think we just kinda laid it all on the line, really. Just using each other now that we’re trying to figure out where we are, I guess. At least I am. They’re amazing players. I’m just trying to find the right spots to get them the puck.”
Iafallo’s four assists tied the franchise record for most assists in a game. Pierre-Luc Dubois was the last to do so back in January.
After a slow start in the early moments, the Jets took the lead at the eight minute mark and never relinquished it the rest of the way.
After enduring through a recent 0-for-20 dry spell, the Jets’ power play is firing on all cylinders again. They netted a pair of goals on the man advantage against the Blues and have scored a power play in their last three straight games. And sometimes all it takes is a lucky break.
“You make all these beautiful plays and the goalie robs you,” said Connor. “Next thing you know I’m over on the far side, getting it to the net, it goes off their d-man’s stick, goes in. That’s the type of stuff that happens. You got to create your own luck out there, but at the same time I thought we were playing really well.”
Scheifele’s first period goal ended a six-game goal drought.
The Jets now have at least a point in seven of their last eight games with only one regulation loss over that span.
“Just continue to build,” Connor said. “Get better every game, every shift. We could see that with our special teams, with our 5-on-5 play. It’s just about building and competing and getting better.”
The Blues had a great chance to open the scoring in the early moments of the game on the power play. Connor Hellebuyck stopped the initial chance but the puck bounced to the side of the net where Pavel Buchnevich was staring at a yawning cage.
But as Buchnevich thought he was putting the puck into an open net, Dylan DeMelo slid across the crease to block it away from danger.
Winnipeg earned their first power play of the game a few minutes later and cashed in to take the lead.
Connor slid the puck down to the corner to Iafallo, who spotted Scheifele sneaking in from the far side. Iafallo slid a perfect pass in front for Scheifele and he buried it to give Winnipeg a power play goal in three straight games.
The Jets doubled their lead with less than four minutes to go in the period when Iafallo knocked Colton Parayko off the puck in the St. Louis end. He got the puck to Scheifele who fed a cutting Neal Pionk, whose wrist shot from the faceoff dot beat Jordan Binnington to make it 2-0.
It was Pionk’s first goal of the season, a day after he spoke at the funeral of his good friend Adam Johnson.
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The two-goal cushion lasted for all of 40 seconds.
After the Jets failed to clear the puck, multiple players got tied up near the faceoff dot before the puck popped free to Robert Thomas. He turned around, saw that he had lots of space to shoot and ripped one over Hellebuyck’s blocker to make it 2-1 after 20 minutes.
The Blues outshot the Jets 12-10 in the opening frame but the Jets turned the tables in the second, dominating the bulk of the period and expanding their lead thanks to another power play goal.
Josh Morrissey found Connor for a one-timer that caught a piece of the stick of Nick Leddy and found its way by Binnington to make it 3-1 at the 4:34 mark.
It stayed 3-1 through 40 minutes as Winnipeg outshot St. Louis 17-6 in the middle frame, though the Blues had more great chances that were blocked away like Buchnevich was in the first by DeMelo.
First, there was Vladislav Namestnikov diving in front of an open net to block a Leddy chance with just under 11 minutes left in the period, then Nate Schmidt got his stick in the way of what should have been an easy tap-in for Brayden Schenn with around nine minutes left.
Early in the third period, the Jets extended their lead to three goals. Binnington misplayed the puck behind his net and as he tried to race back to his crease, Scheifele fed Connor in front for an easy one to make it 4-1 just 62 seconds into the period.
Schenn was finally able to find the back of the net at the 8:08 mark when his wrist shot eluded Hellebuyck, a shot that one would expect Hellebuyck to stop, but the Blues would get no closer than that as Cole Perfetti put the game on ice with an empty-netter with 2:28 to go.
The Jets outshot the Blues 37-22 in the game, including a 27-10 edge over the final 40 minutes.
Special teams also went the way of the Jets as their power play has now scored four goals in three games after a long dry spell. It’s also the second game this season in which the penalty kill did not allow a power play goal.
The Jets now return home to host the Nashville Predators Thursday night. Pregame coverage on 680 CJOB starts at 5 p.m. with the puck dropping just after 7 p.m.
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