Ehlers lifts Jets over Ducks
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Winnipeg Jets spent the American Thanksgiving week in southern California and were thankful for the goaltending and defense that led them to two victories.
Nikolaj Ehlers registered two goals and an assist, Brian Little recorded a goal and two assists, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves as the Jets defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Friday afternoon at Honda Center.
Winnipeg (14-5-3) won its fifth game in six contests and improved to 2-1-0 on a four-game road trip.
Anaheim (10-9-3) lost its second straight game. Francois Beauchemin scored the lone Ducks goal. John Gibson made 31 saves.
Little, whose roots with the franchise extend back to when it was the Atlanta Thrashers, gives credit to the goaltending tandem of Hellebuyck and Steve Mason as the primary reason the Jets surrendered only two goals in two games Friday and Wednesday against Los Angeles.
“The goalies are making big saves,” Little said. “We are also getting big blocks from our defensemen especially on the penalty kill. You do not know if those shots are going wide or in the net. It is the little things we are doing now that is helping the goaltending.”
Hellebuyck, who extended his season record to a sterling 12-2-2, said it was the combination of a quick start and a team effort that got the Jets another win against the Pacific Division.
“It’s huge. It’s never easy coming out in the western conference with the time change,” Hellebuyck said. “Being able to win really shows character in the room. We got on them early and never let off. We played our game right to the final buzzer. You can tell guys are supporting each other and no one’s taking a shift off.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice announced after the game that Mason will get the start Saturday at HP Pavilion against the San Jose Sharks.
For the Ducks, it was more of the same over their recent stretch of games. With impact players missing along the forward wall, they have surrendered the most shots per game in the league (36.7), which not only puts pressure on Gibson and his backups but makes it difficult to generate offense.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle felt Friday’s game was decided in the opening minutes.
The Ducks got a brief respite when an apparent goal by Mark Scheifele was taken off the board after a video review ruled Blake Wheeler was offside. Winnipeg kept pressing and Ehlers opening the scoring on the next shift.
“It looked like we did not have our skates on,” Carlyle said. “We were so slow to react in the first five minutes. We were freezing in the moment. We have to shake that off. We were lucky to get the first goal called back because it was offside, but the very next shift they score and then they get a power-play goal. After the 10-minute mark of the first period, we started getting engaged into the game.”
The Ducks were able to put pressure on Hellebuyck, registering 31 shots, including 11 in the third period, but could not find the range after Beauchemin’s second-period marker.
“We had our fair share of chances, especially on the power play in the third period,” Beauchemin said. “We could not capitalize on our chances, if we did I think we could have pushed the game into overtime.
Ehlers’ goals came in the first five minutes of the game to stake the Jets to a lead they would not surrender. His ninth goal of the season opened the scoring 40 seconds in. Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen turned over the puck in the Anaheim zone to Little, who found Patrik Laine for a wrist shot that Gibson stopped, but Ehlers was left unguarded at the left post to convert the rebound.
Ehlers then found the net on the power play for his 10th goal of the season to extend the Winnipeg lead to 2-0 at 4:59 of the first period. Ehlers took a pass from Tyler Myers and beat Gibson with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle to his stick side. Little registered the secondary assist.
Anaheim drew to within 2-1 on Beauchemin’s first goal of the season at 5:36 of the second period. The defenseman’s wrist shot from the left point found its way through a screen by Logan Shaw and past Hellebuyck. Mike Liambas registered his first NHL point with the primary assist with Dennis Rasmussen adding the additional assist.
Little reestablished Winnipeg’s two-goal lead at 3-1 with a power-play goal, his third of the season at 12:06 of the second period. Little was left unchecked at the right point and drifted to the top of the faceoff circle for a wrist shot that beat Gibson cleanly. Tyler Myers and Ehlers recorded assists.
Kyle Connor added an empty-net goal, his sixth of the season with 1:40 left in the game to close out the scoring.
NOTES: Winnipeg did not dress D Tucker Poolman, C Shawn Matthias and C Marko Dano. ... The Jets conclude their four-game road trip in San Jose tomorrow. ... Anaheim did not dress D Kevin Bieksa and Korbinian Holzer. ... Anaheim reassigned G Reto Berra and D Jaycob Megna to its AHL San Diego affiliate. ... The Ducks will fly north to face the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow at Staples Center. The second meeting with their Southern California rivals is the start of the six-game road trip.