By Carter Brooks
Photos by James Carey Lauder
The Winnipeg Jets wrapped up their 2018-19 preseason on Thursday from Bell MTS Place with a rare exhibition contest against the Metropolitan Division’s New Jersey Devils.
The 5-3 loss wasn’t the result that Winnipeg wanted, but it shed light upon the unimaginable rigors of playing six games in eight days, and provided one more opportunity for the youngsters to show their worth to the Jets' braintrust.
With Devils’ defenceman Damon Severson just stepping out of the box on the tail end of a delay of game penalty, the Jets put the first goal on the board Thursday. Blake Wheeler created a shooting lane for Mathieu Perreault, who collected a bank pass off the boards from his captain, before curling in to the Devils’ net and tucking a beauty of tight shot past netminder Keith Kinkaid.
The Jets’ lead lasted for the majority of the period, but New Jersey tied up the game on a heavy pressure shift as Andy Greene put a puck past Hellebuyck with five minutes to go in the opening frame. 50 seconds later, Kyle Palmieri redirected a Taylor Hall shot-pass into the Jets’ cage, instantly giving the Devils a 2-1 lead. New Jersey led the Jets 12-9 in the shot department after 20 minutes of play.
The second period began the way the first ended for New Jersey, as defenceman Sami Vatanen found an opening in Winnipeg’s end before blasting his first of the preseason past Connor Hellebuyck. Taylor Hall picked up the primary assist on the play, handing the Devils a two-goal lead.
It took Winnipeg until the nine minute mark to get on the board in the second period, as Mark Scheifele demonstrated his other worldly chemistry with youngster Kyle Connor. Jumping on a loose puck in the Devils’ zone, Scheifele dropped a no-look backhand pass to Connor who calmly collected the disc and fired it past Kinkaid, giving the Jets their second marker of the game, his first goal of the preseason.
Once again New Jersey opened the scoring in the third period with an early strike from hometown product Travis Zajac. Just 17 seconds in, the 12-year NHL vet buried a rebound off of a Miles Wood chance in tight, restoring the Devils’ two-goal lead. That goal came much to the displeasure of the members of the local crowd not sporting the last name Zajac on their team sweaters.
Just under three minutes after the Zajac marker, Skyler McKenzie collected his third goal of the preseason on a perfect redirection of a Joe Morrow point shot. The goal was created due to the youthful Jets’ resilient forecheck, most notably youngster Seth Griffith.
But with 10 minutes to go Marcus Johansson found a wide-open Damon Severson, who crept in from the point and stepped into a one-timer from the high slot. Severson’s shot quickly found its way past Hellebuyck, once again giving the Devils a two-goal cushion, and providing Winnipeg with the unrecoverable dagger.
New Jersey finished the game atop the Jets in the shot department, 27-24. Although both teams dressed somewhat loaded lineups, it was the Devils that got the last laugh on Thursday. Hellebuyck gave up five goals, while Kinkaid only surrendered three, the difference in Winnipeg’s final preseason tilt.
With the loss, Winnipeg concludes the 2018-19 preseason with a 4-3 record. The Jets will now have a week off before hitting the road to St. Louis where Winnipeg will open its season on Thurssday, October 4th. The Jets will practice over the weekend and announce roster moves prior to heading out for the season opener. Winnipeg will have its home opener at Bell MTS Place on Tuesday, October 9th. Both the season opener and home opener will be available on TSN3 at 7:00 P.M.