Winnipeg Jets Edge Canucks

WINNIPEG, MB - JANUARY 21: Patrik Laine
WINNIPEG, MB - JANUARY 21: Patrik Laine /

The Winnipeg Jets faced the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night at Bell MTS Place. The Jets would complete the season series sweep with a solid 1-0 win.

The Winnipeg Jets would regain their Central division crown Sunday night getting the important two points against the Canucks. Brandon Sutter and Bo Horvat would make their return for Vancouver off the injury list. Horvat missed the last 18 games and has been out since December 6th. But their returns would not be enough as Connor Hellebuyck would keep Vancouver off the board for his fourth shutout of the season.

Hellebuyck would get the second nod in two nights over called up netminder Michael Hutchinson who seems to be chomping at the bit for playing time. Backup Anders Nilsson would get the nod for Vancouver who has had a less than stellar season so far with a 6-7-1 record, a .901 Sv%, and a cringingly high 3.57 goals against average. He would have himself a strong game against the Jets tonight, however.

1st Period

The period started well with both teams showing good jump and work along the boards. An early cross-checking call on Dustin Byfuglien would give the Canucks an early power-play. Hellebuyck would turn away some routine shots until Matt Hendricks and Brandon Tanev would get a 2 on 1 shorthanded chance in on Nilsson. Matt would shoot high and wide, but that would be the most dangerous chance seen by either team on this power play.

Thomas Vanek would limp off to the bench after a collision between several players along the board. He would return to duty quickly but would have a rough night being targeted by the Winnipeg Jets. Vancouver would have smooth entries through the neutral zone for most of the period. However, their resulting zone time would only produce shots that were easy to see by Hellebuyck who gave up no rebounds.

Laine Lights it Up

Winnipeg would get their first power play on a Vancouver too many men call. Their cycling and work along the boards produced a whopping 1:30 of uninterrupted zone time during the power play. The Canucks would tighten up in the middle and try to keep the bumper from getting any center passes. This kept the Jets to only a few good looks, but Vancouver would survive and keep it scoreless.

Later, Vanek again would be in the center of the play. This time he got rocked at the Vancouver blue line by Tyler Myers. The big hit set up a good Jets entry culminating in Winnipeg’s first goal. Good puck movement along the boards would set Blake Wheeler up behind the net. Where he would send a dart of a pass to Patrik Laine who would shoot it right by the unready Nilsson for his 21st of the year.

The Winnipeg Jets Patrik Laine celebrates what would end up being the only goal of the game against Vancouver.
WINNIPEG, MB – JANUARY 21: Patrik Laine /

Pouring it On

Mathieu Perreault would have an amazing game. His best chance was in the first where he had three shots on net in succession. The first saw him cutting into the center on a Jets entry and releasing a good shot in on Nilsson. The second, he would pass circle to circle to an open Ehlers who had another good chance. Finally, Mathieu would steal the puck in front and put a shot on Nilsson who was solid in all three saves. All this went down in less than a minute. Perreault came to play and did not look tired from last nights win in Calgary.

The Canucks would get decent zone time in the first. But they could not get scoring chances from their hard work. Good defense by the Winnipeg Jets kept shots rare and easy targets for Hellebuyck to absorb.

2nd Period

The second period would start tight, then surprisingly open up both ways after a few chances. Good jump by Vancouver would earn them some good zone time. But Hellebuyck would answer all their chances. The Winnipeg Jets then countered with a long zone time themselves. Good cycling and puck movement would create some pressuring shots. But Nilsson would not give up any rebounds.

Most of the game saw no high danger shots by either team. Both goaltenders just needed to make positional saves. Good rebound control and active defense kept second chances rare.

Both Byfuglien and Jack Roslovic would have good nights. Roslovic would have good speed and be active in his play showing some improvement over his previous games. Unfortunately, he would not get his first NHL goal and would disappear in the third. Byfuglien would bring his physicality and have an impact on the game as usual. He would have a good play of getting the puck out of his end through the neutral zone and into the Canucks end from his belly in order to get the Jets a line change.

Brandon Sutter would pop deflection into a 2 on 1 with Chris Tanev that was broken up by a sliding Toby Enstrom. Another Jets turnover would create a 3 on 1 not long after where it was Dmitry Kulikov‘s turn to copy Entroms belly slide block. Great work in front of Hellebuyck by the Winnipeg Jets defense to negate the scoring chances there.

The Jets would have their own 2 on 1 with Nikolaj Ehlers and Perreault that would force the first big save of the game. Nilsson would keep his team within one going into the third.

3rd Period

Patrik Laine would have his best bid for a second goal for the Winnipeg Jets in the third. He would use his patented backhand-forehand move to get in around the left circle on Nilsson. But his backhand would go just wide of the near post onto the goal mesh. Later Perreault would have another chance off a tip-in from a Josh Morrissey shot from the point. Good work by the Canucks all night long kept the Jets from seeing second chances on shots.

Vancouver’s best chance of the game came off a steal by Markus Granlund who outraced the Winnipeg Jets defenders in alone on Hellebuyck. Connor, smelling danger, skated out between the circles and delivered a diving poke check that knocked the puck away. A smart, highlight-reel play by the young Vezina hopeful. Granlund would try again not long after but would be stood up by Jacob Trouba with a clean punishing open ice hit.

The Winnipeg Jets Kyle Connor, Tyler Myers, Toby Enstrom, and Dmitry Kulikov would all have good nights in Vancouver.
WINNIPEG, MB – JANUARY 21: Kyle Connor /

Brandon Sutter would be at it again in the third when he created another 2 on 1 with Granlund.  Markus could not handle the pass however and shot late to put it behind the net.

Daniel Sedin would upend Blake Wheeler for the third penalty of the night. The Jets power play would start slow until an east-west cross-ice pass from Wheeler to an open Dustin Byfuglien rang off the post. He would then put the rebound back on Nilsson, then level Troy Stecher along the boards to keep the play alive. Four dangerous scoring chances by the Jets, but the Canucks kept it a one-goal game.

With time winding down and the third period half over the Jets kicked it into high gear. Ehlers was sent in alone through the paint by a Bryan Little pass. Nikolaj was not able to backhand it past Nilsson but created another shot opportunity afterward. Anders would fend off both dangerous opportunities and look solid in net all game for the Canucks.

The Vanek Hit

With 3:40 left Winnipeg fans watching the game collectively held their breath when Thomas Vanek bumped Hellebuyck while charging in front of the crease. Connor would get his masked knocked off and would skate to the bench after the quick whistle by the referee. Morrissey tried to prevent Vanek from cutting in front and got a hook in on him that instead went into Hellebuycks mask, cutting him over his right eye.

No call was made on the play as it was Morrissey’s stick that cut Hellebuyck. However, Video replay showed that Vanek’s outstretched elbow caught the chin of Connor’s mask as he skated by. From what I saw it looked like Vanek had time to tuck his elbow in and avoid the hit to the head, but chose not to. It will be interesting to see if the play is reviewed by George Parros and the Department of Player Safety.

Right Down to the End

There would be a nail-biting finish to the game when Kyle Connor would pick off a centering pass from the Vancouver defense in between the circles and force Nilsson to make a game-saving stop. Connor would then lose the puck in the neutral zone and would have to take down Brandon Sutter to prevent the breakaway chance.

With 1:30 left in a one-goal game the Canucks would pull Nilsson to give them a 6 on 4. Vancouver had chances but cohesion problems and no finish doomed them to watch the clock tick away. The  Jets would survive the power play and seal the win.

Next: Jets Douse Flames in Shootout


Lack of finish by the Canucks and disjointed, seemingly improvised, playmaking doomed Vancouver to the shutout. Vancouver has fight in them, they worked hard and were good along the boards. Their cycling bought them decent zone time but it usually resulted in a lackluster shot or none at all.

Only 3 regulation losses for Jets at home this season and you saw why. Good defense and transition through the neutral zone kept them ahead all night. Worryingly though, the Jets offense now has only four goals in four games. In three of those games, the Jets saved their A game until the last 10 minutes of the third. If they had come out with that effort earlier these games would not be so close. Perhaps confidence in their defensive play and goaltending is taking pressure off the forwards to score loads of goals. But such a lack of urgency could come back to bite them.

Whiteouts Three Stars of the Night

Anders Nilsson – The Vancouver backup has had a rough season but showed his potential tonight. He was good positionally and gave no rebounds. He kept his Canucks in a game they had no business hanging around in.

Connor Hellebuyck – A 29 save effort in what was mostly a pedestrian night for the Jets All-Star netminder. He had to be good on only a few plays to preserve his fourth shutout of the season.

The Refs – The referee’s called a good game. Mostly swallowing their whistles and letting the players play. The flow of the game was more enjoyable with less interruptions.