By Carter Brooks
Photos by James Carey Lauder
On a night in which two Manitobans (Matt Calvert – Brandon, Colin Wilson – Winnipeg) returned the their home province, and Marko Dano made his return to Winnipeg as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, it was the team from Manitoba that prevailed in a Central Division matchup from Bell MTS Place Friday evening.
Although Friday’s game was only the Jets’ second game in 12 days, the boys in blue showed very little rust, scoring lots, and scoring early. Outshooting the visitors 8-4 in the first period, Winnipeg capitalized on a sluggish Colorado team, jumping out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
Midway through the first, Patrick Nemeth took a delay of game penalty after shooting the puck clear over the glass. The Jets made him pay rather quickly. After winning the ensuing faceoff, the puck moved from Blake Wheeler to Mark Scheifele to the net, where a rebound came out to Kyle Connor, who backhanded his seventh of the season past Semyon Varlamov.
Not to be outdone, Scheifele potted his seventh of the campaign a few minutes later, capitalizing on a sensational passing play that began with Josh Morrissey, found its way to Wheeler, who faked a shot and slid the disc up ice to Scheifele. The 25-year-old one-timed the puck past an out of position Varlamov, giving Winnipeg its second goal of the frame.
The second period failed to provide any goals, as both Connor Hellebuyck and Semyon Varlamov shut their respected doors on any offensive chances directed their way. Colorado’s best opportunity came on a shorthanded breakaway chance by Sheldon Dries, but Hellebuyck stood strong. Another opportunity for Mikko Rantanen and the Avalanche came on a power play, as the league’s leading scorer rattled a shot off the crossbar.
Colorado responded to Winnipeg’s high-shooting first period and tied up the shot count at 16-16 after two periods. The Jets did a great job holding two of the league’s top-three point leaders off the board through 40 minutes.
Fans in attendance Friday evening certainly got their money’s worth in the third period, as the teams exchanged goals to the tune of five times. Colorado got things going on a solo effort by Erik Johnson, who went untouched to the net and roofed a quick marker past Hellebuyck just two-and-a-half minutes in.
A bad Nathan MacKinnon turnover led to a Blake Wheeler-Nikolaj Ehlers two-on-one goal, as Wheeler collected his third assist of the contest, setting up Ehlers backdoor, restoring Winnipeg’s two-goal lead.
That lead, however, did not last long, as Tyson Jost brought the visitors back to within one on a great Alex Kerfoot setup from a Tyson Barrie stretch pass just over a minute later.
Patrik Laine continued his power play dominance in the third period, blasting his eighth of the season past Varlamov just seven seconds into an Alex Kerfoot high sticking minor, restoring his team lead in goals. The primary assist on Laine’s strike belonged to none other than captain Wheeler.
With the Avalanche net empty for the extra attacker, Wheeler sealed the deal for the Jets, scoring his third of the year and fifth point of the game – a new career high – into the yawning cage.
Hellebuyck finished the night with 28 saves on 30 Avalanche shots, while Varlamov allowed four goals on 23 shots against. The Jets continue their mini four-game homestand on Sunday with a 6:00 P.M. showdown with the New Jersey Devils, before Washington and Buffalo pay visits to the ‘Peg on Wednesday and Friday. Both Sunday and Wednesday’s games can be seen live on Sportsnet.