Bryan Little returns to lineup as Winnipeg Jets win second straight game
WINNIPEG – Bryan Little returned to the lineup and Patrik Laine ended a six game goal scoring drought as the Winnipeg Jets won their second game in a row.
The Jets defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Tuesday at MTS Centre. Laine, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele scored goals for Winnipeg in the win.
The Jets didn’t exactly ease Little back into the lineup as he played over 20 minutes while seeing time on the powerplay and the penalty kill.
“I felt a little better than I thought I was going to.” said Little. “Just getting used to the speed and stuff. The first few shifts, especially the first one, I just felt like I let all my energy out. I mean it was built up and I was really excited and anxious to get playing. I felt unbelievable in those first few shifts. Got a little more tired as the game went on. I didn’t think I’d play as much as I did tonight.”
Little was injured in the very first game of the season and sat out the last 23 games. He also missed the final 25 games to end last season so he had missed 48 of their previous 49 games overall.
“Obviously Bryan coming back tonight was a huge help for us and balancing out our lineup a little bit.” said Scheifele. “So we got to continue with the way we’ve been playing.”
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced and is now 5-0 in his last five home starts. Hellebuyck’s home shutout streak at MTS Centre ended at 174:54, but not before he set a new franchise record for a home shutout streak.
The Jets now have a 7-1-2 record against the Devils over their last 10 meetings.
“I liked our game.” said head coach Paul Maurice. “They skate well, they check well so it was a bit of a grinder at the start. I thought we again left most of our best offence behind their net or off the post. We had some pretty good looks there that we didn’t complete, but our composure was pretty good. We held through it.”
“I thought we did a pretty good job.” said Wheeler. “Having Bryan back, I think gave us a little more balance in the lineup and yeah I thought we did a lot of good things out there.”
Marko Dano left the game in the first period after getting cut near his eye with a high stick by Kyle Quincey.
“He got split with a stick in his eye.” said Maurice. “But his eye, we believe right now is good and solid. So we’re hopeful of that. But this takes a few days possibly to see how much bleeding, if any, there is.”
The two teams played a scoreless first period. The Jets carried the play for much of the period but it was the Devils with the best scoring opportunity. Rookie Miles Wood kicked it into high gear to blow past the Jets defence but Hellebuyck made a nice toe save to keep it scoreless. The shots were 7-6 in favour of the Devils in the period.
With the game still tied midway through the second period, Sergey Kalinin skated in on a breakaway but Hellebuyck made a nice glove save to keep the zeros on the scoreboard.
With 8:40 to play in the middle frame the Jets finally broke through. Nikolaj Ehlers blasted the shot on net. Cory Schneider made the save and then denied Dustin Byfuglien on the rebound. But the puck came right to Scheifele and the third time was the charm as he scored his 13th goal of the season and the Jets had the lead.
Just 2:01 later Schneider once again made the initial save, denying Andrew Copp. And this time Wheeler was right there to bury the loose puck. Jacob Trouba also had an assist on Wheeler’s eighth goal of the campaign.
Only moments later Wood was awarded a penalty shot after Josh Morrissey slashed him on a partial break. Wood skated in ever so slow on his penalty shot attempt and seemed to mishandle the puck at the last second allowing Hellebuyck to make an easy save. The Jets remained up by two.
Schneider made several nice glove saves in the latter stages of the period to keep his team within two goals. It was a huge period for the Jets as they as outshot the Devils 16-7 in the second stanza.
Just three minutes into the third period, Wood from a sharp angle surprised Hellebuyck scoring his first career NHL goal to bring the Devils within one.
The Jets answered right back though. Laine carried the puck in over the blueline and ripped a shot high blocker side past Schneider for his 13th goal of the season. Scheifele and Ben Chiarot picked up the assists as the Jets restored the two goal advantage.
The two goal lead was short lived as New Jersey responded almost immediately. Hellebuyck made the stop on Damon Severson but Nick Lappin was right there to tap in the rebound. His fourth goal of the season once again made it a one goal game but the Jets held on for the 3-2 victory.
Toby Enstrom, Julian Melchiori and Alex Burmistrov were all scratched for Winnipeg.
The Jets wrap up their three game homestand on Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers.
WATCH: Winnipeg Jets Post Game Reaction
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.