Hellebuyck perfect as Jets overcome slow start to beat Vegas 4-0

When the Winnipeg Jets absolutely needed it most, Connor Hellebuyck delivered a vintage performance, stopping all 42 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.

It took the Jets more than 15 minutes to record their first shot on goal, but after a slow start, they scored two goals in each the second and third periods to skate to a second straight victory to sweep the three-game season series.

“I didn’t like our first period, no,” said interim head coach Dave Lowry. “I liked our goalie’s first period. He gave us an opportunity to settle in and get going.

“We found a way to win a hockey game. And the biggest thing is, I’m not going to sit up here and beat up a win. They’re hard to win. Sometimes you win an ugly game, and that was the case tonight.”

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The Golden Knights recorded the first 11 shots of the game and led in the shot department 17-4 after 20 minutes.

It wasn’t pretty, but the two points is all that really mattered.

“Obviously not going in after the first period happy about ourselves,” said Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois. “But knowing it’s a zero-zero game anything is possible. We stayed with it. You get a goal, then two, three, four.

“At this point in the year every point matters, every win matters.”

The Dallas Stars defeated the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday to move past the Golden Knights into the final wild card spot, leaving the Jets three points out of a playoff position. The Knights have lost seven straight road games.

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Hellebuyck recorded his fourth shutout of the season as he made a number of timely saves to help the Jets to their sixth win in their last eight games.

“I’ve been feeling good for awhile,” said Hellebuyck. “It was one of the nights that they just hit you. I could tell early on when the puck was just going my way, the bounces were going my way, tips were going my way, and posts were going my way. So, it was just one of those nights.”

It was the first time in their last seven games the Jets didn’t allow a power play goal.

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Kyle Connor had two more assists to extend his point streak to eight games, while Ehlers’ third period tally gives him goals in five straight contests.

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READ MORE: Jets ship out Copp, Beaulieu, reacquire Appleton at busy trade deadline

With Adam Lowry still in COVID protocol, both of their trade deadline acquisitions made their first appearances with Mason Appleton and Zach Sanford skating on their third forward line. Appleton had one shot on goal in a little over 15 minutes of ice time, while Sanford had three hits and two blocks in 12:07.

“They gave us energy,” said Lowry. “I liked that line and you know what you’re getting with Mason, right. You’re getting speed. You’re getting someone who’s gonna get on top of the puck, someone that is going to turn over pucks.

“Sanford draws a penalty. Does a really good job handling the puck, managing the puck, and Stass (Paul Stastny) played a real good game in between them.”

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The game got off to a very similar start as their meeting a week ago in Winnipeg when it took the Jets 12:26 to register a shot on goal, leading to a notable Bronx cheer from the home crowd.

This time, it took the Jets 15:04, leading the crowd to deliver a raucous mock cheer, but like last week, Hellebuyck made a number of key saves in the opening 20 minutes to keep Vegas off the board.

The Jets were outshot 17-4 in the goalless first, and Vegas kept the pedal down to start the second, hemming the Jets in their own end for long periods of time.

William Carrier had a wonderful chance to open the scoring when Hellebuyck left his crease to play a puck that he never got to. Carrier was fed the puck in the slot but he whiffed on a one-timer attempt, sending the puck fluttering harmlessly over the empty net.

Just past the 5:30 mark of the second, newly-acquired Jet Zach Sanford drew a holding penalty, sending Winnipeg to its second power play of the night.

A centering pass off the stick of Blake Wheeler hit a body and careened toward Vegas goalie Logan Thompson. Thompson stuck out his pad to stop the initial redirection but Dubois banged home the rebound for his 25th goal of the season.

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The goal came on Winnipeg’s seventh shot of the night after Hellebuyck had already made 22 saves.

Three minutes later, it appeared the Jets had taken a 2-0 lead when Evgeny Svechnikov finished off an odd-man rush by firing one over the blocker of Thompson. Vegas challenged the play, however, and video replay showed that Dubois was millimetres offside.

Svechnikov then took a slashing penalty on the ensuing face-off, and while the Golden Knights did not score on the power play, they came close as Chandler Stephenson rang a shot off the post.

The Jets doubled the lead when an Ehlers point shot was tipped in by Mark Scheifele for his 24th of the season, capping off a long shift in the Vegas end.

The shots were 12-11 for Vegas in the second period.

The Jets endured a scare in the third when Dylan DeMelo blocked a shot and remained down for a number of seconds before very slowly making his way to the bench. He went to the locker room but only missed a couple of shifts before returning to action.

Neal Pionk would give his team an insurance marker while the teams were playing 4-on-4, ripping a one-timer past Thompson off a great feed from Connor.

Less than three minutes later, the dagger came from a fantastic deflection by Ehlers. The Dane was tied up while driving to the net, but with one hand on his stick managed to get enough on a firm pass from Scheifele to send it through Thompson.

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The only thing left to determine in the waning minutes was whether Hellebuyck would pick up the shutout, which he did as Vegas did not really threaten to score near the end.

READ MORE: Winnipeg Jets defeat Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 and also complete two trades

The stellar performance ended a run of 11 straight starts for Hellebuyck allowing three or more goals.

Winnipeg will look to win a third straight game when the Ottawa Senators come to town Thursday night. Pregame show begins on 680 CJOB at 5 p.m., with the puck drop shortly after 7 p.m.

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