After a miserable first period, the Winnipeg Jets came out firing in the second, scoring three times on their way to a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at Bell MTS Place Thursday night.
The Jets were outplayed and outshot by a margin of 18-6 in a scoreless opening 20 minutes, but Paul Stastny scored just eight seconds into the middle frame, and the Jets never looked back.
“We were horses–t,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said about their start to the game. “We beat the puck to death, and we were slow to our players. So, that’s not a good recipe, and then we just got faster, and sharper, and quicker.
“We’re gonna put a dress on this one. We weren’t a very good hockey team in the first, and they earned everything they got. They were very, very good. And then we got a little quicker.”
Whatever was said at the intermission had an immediate impact in the second period as the Jets were a much different team in the final 40 minutes.
“I think we were watching a lot in that first period,” Jets forward Paul Stastny said. “I think no one was finishing checks. We were kinda watching, kinda hoping things would happen, and we got beat up the ice way too many times, and I think we just got more engaged.”
“We were just a little slow on pucks, and slow with our decision making, and moving our feet,” DeMelo said. “We kinda picked it up towards the end of the first, and better second, and then we’re up 3-0, maybe we put it a little bit on cruise control.”
The Jets have won all four meetings against the Sens this season with a plus-11 goal differential.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler also scored second periods goals for the Jets as they took a three-goal lead to the final frame. Mathieu Perreault and Neal Pionk completed the scoring for the Jets.
The Jets move to 8-4-1, while the Sens fall to 2-12-1.
Fully healthy again after testing positive for COVID-19 in January, defenceman Tucker Poolman returned to the Jets’ lineup for the first time since the season opener exactly four weeks earlier.
He had three shots on goal, two hits, and one blocked shot over 15 minutes of ice time.
“He was good,” Maurice said. “For the block of time that he would have taken off – to come into a really fast, high event, quick game, I was real happy with the way he jumped in.”
With Poolman just coming back after a lengthy absence, Maurice changed the configuration of his lineup to dress an extra defenceman. The Jets used only 11 forwards with seven defenceman in the victory.
“I liked it,” said Maurice. “It might have been the saving grace for the game from a forward perspective. Our ‘D’ had a tough time. They put an awful lot of pressure on those guys.”
After Stastny opened the scoring, Ehlers re-directed a Dylan DeMelo blast for his his third goal in his last two games. And then with 27 seconds left in the period, Wheeler put in his fourth of the year on the powerplay for a 3-0 lead.
It was Wheeler’s 218th goal as a Jet, which moved him into second on the franchise’s all-time goals list ahead of Bryan Little.
Perreault kept it going for the Jets in the third, with his second of the season.
Josh Norris would break Hellebuyck’s shutout bid later in the third, before Pionk potted his first of the year for the Jets to round out the scoring.
Hellebuyck ended up making 41 saves in the win.
The teams square off again on Saturday afternoon at Bell MTS Place, with the puck dropping just after 2 p.m.
The pregame show begins on 680 CJOB at 12 p.m.