Jets look to finish off three-game sweep vs. Senators

NHL Hockey

The Winnipeg Jets seem to have a found a groove early in the NHL season.

Despite one little hiccup — a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday — everything seems to be clicking as the Jets head back to Winnipeg for a seven-game homestand.

The Jets took two wins from the Ottawa Senators — 4-1 on Thursday and 4-3 in overtime Tuesday — with balanced scoring, solid defense and a strong 1-2 punch in goaltending with Laurent Brossoit and Connor Hellebuyck.

Hellebuyck got the win Thursday, coming within two minutes, 57 seconds of a shutout. Chris Tierney spoiled his chances for a perfect night.

No matter, the 27-year-old logged his 150th NHL win.

“It’s another one of those little proud moments,” said Hellebuyck, the 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winner. “It just says a lot about the guys in front of me, the team as a whole, how long we’ve been together and building together and getting a lot of wins along the way.”

Hellebuyck made 28 saves, including a big one on Senators center Cedric Paquette, who found himself on a short breakaway. The Jets defense recovered the rebound and moved the puck up the ice for Mark Scheifele’s game-winner at 4:22 of the second period.

“(Hellebuyck) is quite the luxury to have back there,” said Jets team captain Blake Wheeler. “We certainly feel he’s the top goaltender in the league. He certainly showed that last year.”

Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers and Adam Lowry each scored once for the Jets, showing the scoring depth that fell asleep against the Leafs earlier in the week.

“That was a good learning experience, a reminder of how hard this league is and how hard you have to play night in and night out to have a chance to win,” said Wheeler.

While the Jets are heading home, the schedule brings the Senators to their doorstep for a Saturday night tilt.

The Thursday loss wrapped up a four-game homestand to start Ottawa’s season that started with a 5-3 win over the Leafs but followed with three consecutive losses.

The frustrations seem to be mounting.

“We had some competitive guys, but we had a lot of guys that couldn’t match their level of speed and competitiveness and that’s not acceptable,” Sens head coach D.J. Smith said.

The Jets put the Senators on their heels from the opening whistle, he said, and the home team did not respond.

“They took it serious and they came after us,” he said. “They put it in and beat us on the majority of 50-50 pucks.”

Matt Murray allowed four goals on 26 shots in two periods. Smith yanked him from the net for the final 20 minutes during which Marcus Hogberg made three saves in his season debut.

Murray admitted he should have had a couple of those goals.

“Those ones just can’t go in,” Murray said. “There’s no excuse for that.”

On the bright side, the Senators outhit the Jets 51-14. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson led the Senators with six.

The Sens also killed off all seven Winnipeg power plays.

“That was the best part tonight,” Smith said. “You can’t take seven penalties but if you’re going to lose a game, you might as well have seven and have the opportunity to work on it and get better at it. I thought that was a strong point and probably one of the only real positives of tonight’s game.”

–Field Level Media

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