It took an empty netter to put away the Blue Jackets.
With ten goals scored in this game, the final was 6-4 in favour of the Jets. Two of those goals, however, included back-to-back late third period goals by Cam Atkinson to bring the Jackets within one. But after Brian Little was able to find Blake Wheeler streaking at the blue line for the empty net strike, the Jets sealed their third win of December, and Hellebuyck’s fourth consecutive win as a rookie starter.
It wasn’t easy, though. The ref originally called Wheeler’s empty netter off to go upstairs on the suspicion of offside—a play that looked eerily similar to the game-winner against Washington last week.
But the play was ruled onside, and the goal stood.
Multiple Jets had big point-scoring nights, including Mattieu Perreault who scored once and had three assists for four points on the night. His line of Scheifele and Stafford produced nine points together. Stafford and Byfuglien each had a goal and three points.
The Jets got off to their best start in quite a few games, scoring twice in the first couple minutes. Scheifele got the first goal within the first minute after collecting his own rebound off a shot that went wide from the high slot. He was able to stuff it in between the post and McElhinney’s skate from in tight. Scheifele got a goal and an assist, and Little had a two-point night as well.
Then, a mere couple minutes later, Lowry tipped home his first of the year on a point shot from Byfuglien.
After Stuart and Campbell dropped the mitts—Campbell went after Stuart for a clean hit he laid on William Karlsson, earning him an instigator and a ten-minute misconduct—Byfuglien scored on the ensuing power play on a hard point-shot, something coach Paul Maurice was emphasizing in practice on Wednesday.
Late in the first, though, the Blue Jackets would net their first, and it took only five shots. Boone Jenner found himself in front of a loose puck in close on Hellebuyck and slid it five-hole to pull to make it 3-1 going into the intermission.
Despite being outshot in the second period 15-7, the Blue Jackets were able to find the back of the net again. And again their goal came late. With only 56 seconds remaining in the period, Scott Hartnell was able to put an ugly one behind Hellebuyck on the power play after Enstrom took the Jets’ fourth penalty of the game.
In the third period, a total of five goals were scored, including an empty netter by Blake Wheeler to seal the Jets’ victory. Stafford and Perreault both scored in the first half of the period to make it a three-goal game (5-2 Winnipeg). But Cam Atkinson knocked in two quick ones late in the frame, giving the Jackets some life. His second was scored with 1:44 remaining. That goal made it 5-4.
But less than a minute later, Wheeler found the empty net, and the Jets found their sixth win in their last ten games, and pull to one win above .500 this season.
The Jets currently sit in sixth place in the Central Division, five points ahead of the Avalanche, but three points behind the Wild.
The Jets’ next game is tomorrow in Chicago where they’ll get a chance to pull to within two points of the Blackhawks. Expect Hutchinson to start.