Ryan O’Reilly scored the lone goal of the shootout and Jordan Binnington was excellent in goal as the St. Louis Blues went into Winnipeg Tuesday night and beat the Jets 3-2 in Connor Hellebuyck’s first game since becoming a dad last week.
The Jets generated countless quality scoring chances, especially in a dominant second period, but Binnington made 39 saves to help the Blues escape with the two points.
“We had a lot of golden opportunities that we normally cash in on it,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “We are having a tough time with right now, but outside of that, I mean, there’s really not a whole lot else you can do in an NHL game. Their goalie played good. Our goalie played good.
“I think we build off that one. There’s nothing to hang your head about after a night like that.”
With the victory, the Blues take over top spot in the Central Division, two points ahead of the Jets.
The Jets finished the game with 41 shots and outshot the Blues 17-5 in a strong second period, but only mustered a single goal during the middle frame.
“I liked our offensive game for the first time in a long time for two periods,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “We lost a shootout. I liked the way we played. I was happy with our game.”
The Jets line of Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and Adam Lowry was especially effective, but the trio couldn’t solve Binnington at even strength.
“We’re a little snake bit right now, but we obviously know that producing is apart of our job,” Wheeler said. “But the amount of chances and the amount of quality chances that we’re generating on a nightly basis right now – I think it’s something we can build off of and start to find the back of the net a little bit more.”
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Hellebuyck & Wheeler Interviews – Nov. 9
Hellebuyck stopped 31 of 33 shots after Eric Comrie started the last three straight games. The Blues only beat him twice on the night, but he’d probably like a do-over on the first goal after getting scored on between his legs.
“I felt good,” said Hellebuyck. “A few mistakes on my end tonight. I feel I’ve gotten certain details into my game, and certain bad habits out of my game. And tonight I might have crept a few of those back in. So, I mean, that’s just a matter of getting my mind into game speed.”
The Blues got on the board first thanks to their lethal power play taking advantage of one of the league’s worst penalty kills. Pavel Buchnevich scored his third of the year with just under two minutes left in the first, beating Hellebuyck with a shot that should have been stopped.
Just over midway through the second, the Jets would draw even thanks to Neal Pionk. The defenceman made a great spin move at the blue line to keep the play alive, then sent a wrist shot towards the net that glanced off Blues defenceman Marco Scandella and past a screened Binnington.
Pionk had a glorious chance to put his team in front in the opening minute of the third, set up by a great feed from Wheeler. Pionk deked around Binnington but slid the puck just wide of the post.
Perhaps he doesn’t quite have the finishing touch that Kyle Connor has, as the Jets forward gave his team the lead 6:22 into the period. A loose puck found its way to the stick of Connor, who showed great patience before roofing one past Binnington for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Wheeler was credited with an assist on the play, giving him 700 points as a member of the Jets/Thrashers franchise, earning him a rousing ovation from the Jets faithful when it was announced in the arena.
“I love these people here,” Wheeler said. “They’re treated me like gold for 11 years. I try to give everything I have every time we play in this building in front of those people. So, it means a lot to be appreciated.”
The good times were short-lived, however. With just over eight minutes left in the period, Jordan Kyrou redirected a centering pass past Hellebuyck to level the score.
Each side would get a few decent chances before the end of regulation, but were unable to find the back of the net.
In the extra frame, the Blues had the bulk of the scoring opportunities, outshooting the Jets 9-1, and not included in that tally was Brandon Saad hitting the post. But again, the chances yielded no goals, so a shootout was necessary to decide things.
After the first two shooters for both sides were denied, Vladimir Tarasenko missed the net, giving Mark Scheifele the chance to score his second shootout winner of the season, but he was stymied by Binnington.
Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly put his team ahead in round four, so it was up to Wheeler to keep his team alive but he was denied, giving the visitors the extra point.
The Jets continue their seven-game homestand Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks.
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Paul Maurice Interview – Nov. 9
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