OTTAWA – After a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night it’s easy to see why the Winnipeg Jets are one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
The Jets (30-16-1) came into the game having lost the first two games of their five-game road trip and from the start it was clear they didn’t intend to lose a third.
Winnipeg’s forecheck was impressive and Ottawa had no response.
Mark Scheifele led the way with a pair of goals and an assist, while Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists, giving him 900 career points.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Cole Perfetti also scored for Winnipeg, while Connor Hellebuyck stopped 25 shots.
Ehlers, who missed 36 games with an abdominal injury, now has 12 points (4G, 8A) in his past nine games since returning to the lineup.
“He’s a fantastic player for us, and he played great for us tonight, too,” said Scheifele. “We need him with his ‘A’ game for us to win. He was fantastic again tonight, and still only a few games in from him coming back.”
Josh Norris scored the lone goal for the Senators (20-23-3), who continue to struggle defensively. Anton Forsberg made 25 saves.
If body language is any indication frustration is at an all-time high among players right now. Thomas Chabot was asked what the mood is like and he was blunt.
“It’s not good,” Chabot said. “No one’s happy right now, but, I mean, it’s the game of hockey and they were the better team tonight and that’s it.”
The Senators were coming off a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday, while the Jets were waiting for them in Ottawa.
Ottawa is now 2-6-0 in its last eight and appear to be trending in the wrong direction.
“Where we were in the standings we were looking like we were going in the right direction,” said Ottawa forward Claude Giroux, who was clearly frustrated. “In Pittsburgh, obviously we didn’t play well and tonight, back-to-back, whether you have legs or not it doesn’t matter you’ve got to play your best.”
Not surprisingly Senators head coach D.J. Smith said changes will be made.
“We’re going to shuffle the top nine,” said Smith. “I mean there’s guys that are minus every night and it just can’t continue. That’s on me for allowing them to keep playing together or certain guys to play together and if you’re getting scored on it’s not working, so we’re going to work on every line and we’re going to grind our way out of this.”
Ottawa showed a lack of discipline taking eight minor penalties and were fortunate the Jets only capitalized once with the man advantage, but they were just as dangerous at full strength.
“We haven’t had that for a while, obviously, the last couple of games,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “We talked about it before the game, ‘We need a greasy goal here from our forwards.’ And then (Wheeler) goes to the net, (Ehlers) puts it in around there, and (Wheeler) gets his screws in. We haven’t had one of those for a while. You just need one of those sometimes to get you going 5-on-5.”
Leading 3-1 to start the third the Jets seemed in full control as Ottawa looked uninspired for stretches.
Despite a full house Senators fans had little to cheer about and headed for the exits as Scheifele scored his second of the game with just under four minutes remaining.
Perfetti’s goal late in the period, which put the Jets up 5-1, had no impact on the game, but was memorable for Wheeler, as an assist gave him 900 career points.
Winnipeg scored twice in the second and dominated play for much of the period.
Scheifele scored his 27th of the year on a one-timer at the five-minute mark and some poor defensive coverage by the Senators allowed Wheeler to jump on Ehlers’ rebound to put the Jets ahead 3-1.
The Jets opened the scoring at the six-minute mark of the period on the power play when Ehlers took a feed from Josh Morrissey and tapped it in for his fourth of the season.
Ottawa tied it midway through the period with Claude Giroux winning the offensive zone faceoff and feeding Norris, who one-timed it past Hellebuyck, who didn’t look ready for the shot.
With the assist Giroux reached 40 points for the 14th consecutive season.
The intersecting ties of hockey were at their finest Saturday morning as Winnipeg head coach Rick Bowness had the opportunity to skate with his grandson at the Canadian Tire Centre, as his son Ryan, is the Senators assistant general manager.
Dylan Gambrell replaced Derick Brassard for the Ottawa Senators. Winnipeg changes included Karson Kuhlman coming in for Sam Gagner and Dylan Samberg for Ville Heinola.
The Senators host the New York Islanders Wednesday night, while the Jets head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers Sunday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2023.