The Winnipeg Jets were looking for a change in pace when they hit the road on Monday night, after losing three straight at home, but a surprisingly tough Columbus Blue Jackets squad stood in their way. The Jets got a big player back before the game, and he was the difference-maker, as Winnipeg won against a beat-up Columbus team, 3-2.
The first period didn’t produce any goals, but it was an entertaining 20 minutes nonetheless. Jacob Trouba of the Jets and Matt Calvert of the Blue Jackets got physical just 90 seconds into the game, and the 19-year old defenseman held his own against the Brandon, Manitoba native. Evander Kane, who was playing in his first game in December after missing 6 contests with a lower-body injury, had to be helped off the ice by two teammates, and went straight to the Jets’ dressing room. Nick Foligno and Adam Pardy got in a tilt of their own halfway through the frame, wrapping up all the rough stuff in the first period. The physical frame ended with the Jets leading in shots, 7-5.
The second period was even more physical, and after the Jets successfully killed off two penalties early, Mark Scheifele scored his fourth goal of the year, just over halfway through the game. Winnipeg killed off another penalty of their own, and then were very close to going up 2-0, when Winnipeg gained a 5-on-3 opportunity. The Jets used it well, spending over a minute straight in the opposing end, but they would not find the net. The period ended with Winnipeg holding a 1-0 lead, out-shooting Columbus 16-11 in the period. Kane, who returned to the Jets’ bench to start the second period, was injured again when he hit the boards awkwardly, and once again left for the room for the remainder of the period.
Winnipeg’s man-advantage got another chance just 40 seconds into the third period, when Cam Atkinson took a 4-minute high-sticking penalty on Trouba. The Jets’ defenseman was bleeding, but stayed in the game. Bryan Little got redemption, when he tipped in Dustin Byfuglien‘s point shot halfway through the extended power-play, giving the Jets a 2-0 lead. Columbus immediately pushed back, and after a pair of quality chances, R.J. Umberger scored on a wrap-around, bringing the Blue Jackets within one. Evander Kane, who returned to the game for a second time, restored the Jets’ 2-goal lead shortly after, but Fedor Tyutin cancelled that out with a goal of his own just 1:04 later. The Blue Jackets pushed for the tying goal late in the game, but Winnipeg’s defense took care of their own end, and the Jets won the game, 3-2.
Al Montoya, making his first start in four games, made 22 saves, good for a .917% save percentage. At the other end, Mike McKenna stopped 27 of 30 shots, making his first start in three years after both Columbus goalies wound up injured.
The Jets’ power-play scored for the fourth game in a row (five goals), making it 16 power-play goals on the season. Winnipeg’s man-advantage is currently ranked 27th in the NHL, and was 1/4 on the night.
The Jets improve to .500% (15-15-5), while Columbus falls to 14-16-4. Winnipeg tied themselves with the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators for 5th in the Central Division with 35 points, although the Jets have played the most games out of the three.
Winnipeg is back in action Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres, while the Blue Jackets have a couple of days off before heading to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
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