For the second time in three games, the Winnipeg Jets overcame a sluggish start, found a way to make it to overtime, and left the ice victorious.
Their first of three straight games against the Ottawa Senators didn’t go their way for the majority of regulation – but goaltender Laurent Brossoit and forward Nikolaj Ehlers delivered the fatal one-two punch in the extra frame, giving the Jets a 4-3 victory and a 2-1-0 record on the season.
For Ehlers, it was his first career overtime goal.
“It felt great,” Ehlers said. “It’s very nice to not just get one in OT, but get the first of the year, and try to keep it going from there. The team – we battled our asses off to stay in the game and get a chance to get the tying goal, and give us a point or two.”
The Jets trailed by a pair of goals midway through the second period, but scored three unanswered goals the rest of the way to pick up the two points.
“It was going to be a grinder – we knew that,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “There was enough of a resilience in the group, right. And enough leadership on the bench that they were saying the right things. Their emotions were right, even down 3-1, and lots of hockey on the clock. So it was a positive bench tonight.”
Despite winning two of their first three games, the Jets have yet to play with a lead this season. They’ve had poor starts in all three games now, but they managed to grab the momentum back against the Sens, unlike a night earlier in their loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We were a way better team tonight,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “The score wasn’t quite indicative of that, but we watched some video this morning. And it wasn’t the way we wanted to play the game. It didn’t really fit into the type of culture that we’ve established here in Winnipeg.
“I think we felt good about where we stood in the game, just kept clawing our way back, and got some big plays at key times.”
If Brossoit wanted a swift introduction to the 2021 season, the Senators’ top line of Drake Batherson, Josh Norris and Brady Tkachuk certainly provided it – throwing six shots on net in the game’s first two minutes.
After Derek Forbort took the game’s first penalty – it was Norris who took advantage, scoring his first National Hockey League goal from the bottom of the face-off circle to give the Senators an early lead.
The Jets had a chance to even the score just minutes later after a hold from Artem Anisimov – but Kyle Connor remained snakebitten from his office on the far side face-off circle, ringing his one-timer off the shoulder of Matt Murray and then the post.
Ottawa extended their first period lead to two at 9:29 when Chris Tierney tipped in a Connor Brown pass right in front of Brossoit.
With a couple of minutes left in the frame, Adam Lowry submitted his own application for the hands team, redirecting a Neal Pionk point shot past Murray to bring the Jets within one heading into the first intermission.
The second period started in much more even fashion, with Connor recording the Jets’ best chance of the first 10 minutes after a brilliant pass from Mark Scheifele, but again, it found iron.
Sami Niku took his second trip to the penalty box for a delay of game penalty, and the Senators cashed in on the ensuing power play this time as Alex Galchenyuk got his first goal as a member of the Sens.
Playing in his second NHL game Tuesday, Jets defenceman Logan Stanley introduced himself to the Senators’ top line in his second NHL game, mixing it up with Tkachuk and Josh Brown between the benches.
Connor found twine on the Jets’ fourth power play of the night, firing a pass from Blake Wheeler across the net and a sprawling Murray to bring the Jets back within a single goal.
He’s recorded a goal in each of the Jets’ first three games of the season – and the assist from the captain was the 499th of his NHL career.
Again, a late Winnipeg goal masked the full results of a period where the team was largely outplayed with the Senators headed to the dressing room nursing a 3-2 lead and a 32-17 advantage in shots.
The Sens continued to drive the play to open up the third period – and the Jets’ inability to catch up was evidenced by the team’s second holding penalty of the game, when Jansen Harkins was whistled for holding Austin Watson.
No damage was done on the Sens’ fifth power-play of the game, though.
Brossoit picked up where Connor Hellebuyck left off on Monday night – stymying the Senators’ continued push to put the game out of reach.
Then, the captain’s line broke through.
A low wrist shot from Josh Morrissey found its way through several pairs of legs, before ramping up off a stick and over the shoulder of Murray to tie the game with 73 seconds remaining.
Both teams headed to overtime a point richer, seeking the important head-to-head win in what’ll end up being a 10-part series in the NHL’s North Division this year.
The three-on-three frame delivered little excitement before the final sequence – when Brossoit made a big pad save on a Batherson snap shot, then the Jets went the other way, and Andrew Copp found a streaking Ehlers for his first goal of the 2021 campaign – and the Jets found a way to earn both points in a game when most onlookers say they shouldn’t have.
Brossoit made 38 saves in his season debut – facing 41 shots, the most he’s seen since November 2019.
The Jets earn a day off following their doubleheader against both Ontario teams – but pick the series back up on Thursday facing the Senators on the same ice at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Coverage on 680 CJOB begins at 4 p.m. with the pre-game show hosted by Kelly Moore, then Jamie Thomas and Paul Edmonds take over for puck drop at 6 p.m.