Jets take out offensive frustrations on Wings in 6-2 trouncing

It was a long-awaited night of slump-busting for the Winnipeg Jets.

Several players broke long goalless streaks as the Jets pounded the Detroit Red Wings 6-2 Friday night, inching closer to a playoff spot that once seemed inevitable.

After scoring just six goals over their last five games combined, the Jets exploded for six goals in the first 46 minutes of the game.

Seven different players had multi-point nights for the Jets in the win to start their final homestand of the regular season.

“Eventually the puck had to go in for us,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “And you need some breaks. I mean, look at Mark’s (Scheifele) goal. All of sudden he’s coming around the net, knocks it in. We haven’t had those breaks in a long time, even the first goal, the tip, so we haven’t had the luck around the net in a long time. It was good to see.”

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Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Interview – March 31'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Interview – March 31

A career centreman, Scheifele was moved out to the wing alongside Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor, and the move paid off almost immediately with Connor opening the scoring in the first.

“It’s different for sure,” said Scheifele. “I played centre my whole life, so, it’s definitely an adjustment, but you play with two good players like Dubey and KC, it makes it easy.”

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Mark Scheifele Interview – March 31'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Mark Scheifele Interview – March 31

Connor scored just his second goal in his last 15 games. Scheifele ended a nine-game goalless streak and Blake Wheeler ended a monstrous 21-game goal-scoring drought.

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“Honestly, I had no idea,” said Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers on Wheeler’s slump. “He told me on the bench. So, obviously that’s huge for him. We all know when you go through something like that, it’s not the most fun, but he still found ways to contribute.”

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“It’s good to get those guys on the scoreboard,” said Bowness. “They’ve all had plenty of scoring opportunities over the last couple of weeks and it just hasn’t gone in. But we got to keep doing those things we did tonight.”

It was a key win for the Jets with just six games left in the regular season.

“I hope it does a lot of good,” said Ehlers. “I think we played well tonight. But we got six games to go and every single one is a huge one. So, we enjoy this one for tonight and then we move onto the next one tomorrow.”

It was just the third time in the last 15 games the Jets opened the scoring.

Both Scheifele and Dylan DeMelo set new career highs for goals in a season with Scheifele notching his 39th, while DeMelo recorded his fifth of the season.

Josh Morrissey was under the weather and missed the game, but the Jets hope to have him back in the lineup on Sunday.

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“That was a big hole back there,” Bowness said. “You notice how much you miss him when he’s not there. But give those guys credit. Mel (DeMelo) had a great game. Neal Pionk, that’s one of his best games. Dilly (Brenden Dillon) was really good, and so was (Dylan) Samberg. They all did their job tonight.”

Amidst a stretch in which they had allowed the game’s first goal in 15 of 18 contests, the Jets came close to letting it happen again.

About four minutes in, the Red Wings put together a charge up the ice that led to a prime opportunity for Dominik Kubalik in close but Connor Hellebuyck stood tall, which proved to be the spark that Winnipeg needed to take over the game.

The Jets spent the majority of the rest of the period in the Detroit end as the team that had been starved for goals for weeks broke out in a big way.

Connor got on the board at the 6:56 mark when he redirected a Dillon point shot past Magnus Hellberg to open the scoring, just his second goal in his last 15 games.

Just over five minutes later, Ehlers collected the puck just inside the Detroit blue line and sent a perfect pass to a hard-driving Wheeler, who tapped it into the open net to make it 2-0 with his first marker since Valentine’s Day.

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The onslaught continued less than two minutes later when a Pionk point shot was blocked but the puck skittered right to Scheifele at the side of the net, who banged it in for his first in 10 games.

Winnipeg held an 11-4 edge in shots on goal and kept up the pressure in the second.

Just 1:20 into the middle frame, DeMelo sent a wrist shot on goal from the point and it found its way past Hellberg to make it 4-0. With the goal, DeMelo set a new career high in goals (5) and points (23).

Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came not for a goal but for a defensive play.

Moments after Morgan Barron failed to score on a fairly open net, Matt Luff was sprung on a breakaway after blocking a point shot. But Pionk sprinted back to knock the puck away from Luff just as he was closing in on Hellebuyck, prompting the Jets faithful to erupt in appreciation.

The offence kept coming at the 13:42 mark when Nino Niederreiter made it 5-0. Mason Appleton tried to hit him with a pass as he drove to the net but it ended up in his body. It dropped behind the net before the Swiss winger collected it, made a move to the front of the net and tucked it through Hellberg for his first goal in eight games.

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With Detroit playing the night after a home win over Carolina, a comeback was not in the cards so the big question heading into the third was whether Hellebuyck could pick up his first shutout since November.

In the meantime, the Jets decided to grab another goal for good measure. Vladislav Namestnikov was denied on a net drive but the rebound found its way to Ehlers, who slammed it home for his 10th of the season at the 5:07 mark of the third.

Detroit broke up the shutout bid at the 10:41 mark while on the power play when David Perron’s point shot banked in off of Samberg, who was battling in front of the net.

Just 21 seconds later, the Wings scored again when Joe Veleno banged home a loose puck that eluded Hellebuyck after an initial chance.

That’s where the comeback attempt ended as the Jets got to the finish line to collect two valuable points, moving momentarily four points ahead of Calgary for the final playoff spot in the West before the Flames faced the Canucks later in the night.

Hellebuyck made 23 saves for the win with 11 of them coming in the third while Hellberg allowed six goals on 29 shots.

The victory was Winnipeg’s first win by multiple goals since a 7-5 triumph over Edmonton Mar. 4 and just their third since the All-Star break.

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Winnipeg should face a stiffer test Sunday when they host the New Jersey Devils, a team fighting for first in the Metropolitan Division. Pregame coverage on 680 CJOB begins at 4 p.m. with the puck dropping just after 6 p.m.

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Nikolaj Ehlers Interview – March 31'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Nikolaj Ehlers Interview – March 31

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