After losing three of their four games before entering the NHL’s All-Star break in late January, the Winnipeg Jets needed to refuel.
An 11-day break seems to have done just that.
The Jets returned to action Saturday night, defeating the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 as Blake Wheeler had two goals and an assist and Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves.
The Jets will look to soar even more when they play host to the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday night.
“For us to come out and get two points out of a game, we knew was going to be a battle — and it was – (as) they made it hard for us in that third period and the last half of the first,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said. “The bottom line is, we got them and now we get ready for Seattle.”
Josh Morrissey, fresh off his first All-Star Game appearance, added a goal and an assist for the Jets, getting a helper on Wheeler’s game-winning goal in the second period.
“I think it felt good,” Wheeler said of his team’s first game since Jan. 30. “Certainly better than the end of that stretch in January, a tough couple months, schedule-wise. The last two days of practice we had a lot of life in practice so you could sense we would come out with some good jump (Saturday).”
Wheeler’s winner was the 41st of his Jets career, passing Ilya Kovalchuk for second in Jets/Atlanta Thrashers history. Teammate Kyle Connor is first with 42.
The Blackhawks’ lone goal came early in the third period after the Jets grabbed a 3-0 lead.
“They might have got a little bit of momentum (off their goal) but I don’t think we took the foot off the gas at all,” said Hellebuyck, who posted his 25th victory of the season, second only to Boston’s Linus Ullmark (26).”I mean, we did just have a long break and we’re getting our legs under us. But I thought it was a good 60 (minutes).”
The Jets got a boost from the return of forward Mason Appleton, who returned to the lineup after missing 38 games following wrist surgery.
“He was good,” Bowness said. “I was just talking to him now coming in here. His legs were good, his wind was good. Again, when you haven’t played in three months – (you’re adjusting to) the timing, the reads, the speed of the game – but I thought he was really good. It shows you his importance to our team.”
The Kraken are wrapping up a five-game trip. They held on to defeat Philadelphia 4-3 on Sunday to snap a three-game skid that knocked them out of first place in the Pacific Division.
Jaden Schwartz scored twice and Jordan Eberle added a goal and an assist for the Kraken.
“Anytime you’ve lost three in a row, especially coming out of the (All-Star) break, you start doubting yourself a bit,” Eberle said. “But we know we have the team in here. We know we’re good. We know that we’re a fast team and when we play to the way that we know we can, we’re a good team in this league.”
–Field Level Media