Bryan Little scored with just 11 seconds left in overtime as the Jets rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks Sunday at Bell MTS Place.
Anaheim began the day having dropped 10 straight games but looked like they might snap the streak after racing out to a pair of leads in the game. But the misery continued as they fell apart down the stretch.
Winnipeg improves to 29-14-2 and pulls two points ahead of Nashville for top spot in the Central Division. The Jets still have two games in hand on the Predators.
As the game began, it looked like the Hockey Gods might give the free-falling Ducks a break.
Brian Gibbons opened the scoring just 2:19 into the opening period when his pass attempt was accidentally booted by Jets defenceman Ben Chiarot past Connor Hellebuyck. Gibbons’ fluky goal was his first it 65 games dating back to Dec. 12, 2017.
Rickard Rakell made it 2-0 later in the period when his shot snuck just under the crossbar to beat Hellebuyck. At the time, it gave Anaheim two goals on just five shots.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler grabbed some momentum back for his team when he scored with 59 seconds left in the opening frame while on the power play. Winnipeg tried a new wrinkle with the man-advantage Sunday, with Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele basically switching spots. It paid off as Wheeler, normally the set-up man, became the shooter for his ninth of the season.
Laine, playing in his 200th regular-season game, broke out of a scoring slump when he converted a one-timer pass from Bryan Little just 2:24 into the second period. Laine’s 25th of the year was his first in seven games and just second in the past 13. He made a terrific play to get a stick on a bouncing feed and blast it past Anaheim goalie John Gibson.
Laine is just the seventh player in NHL history to have three seasons of at least 25 goals prior to hitting their 21st birthday.
Winnipeg had a few good looks to take the lead as the period progressed, only for Andrew Cogliano to do so with just over four minutes left in the middle frame. A seemingly harmless shot from an awkward angle near the goal-line found its way through the former Vezina Trophy finalist, the latest in a growing stretch of iffy goals he’s allowed in recent games.
Hellebuyck has now surrendered at least three goals in 10 of his past 12 starts, a total of 36 goals during that span. He made 28 saves Sunday.
But the Jets didn’t quit as Ben Chiarot tied it with 5:55 to play. His point shot took a bounce off the ice just in front of Gibson and hopped past him. The goal came after some great work down low from the reunited TLC line of Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp. Coach Paul Maurice put the trio together earlier in the period to try and help spark his team.
The overtime was a wild, wide-open affair. Highlights include a great pad save by Hellebuyck off Cam Fowler in the opening minute, and Kyle Connor ringing a shot off the post. Then came Little’s winner, his 10th of the year and the second-straight game he’s notched the game-winner.
The Jets close out a three-game homestand Tuesday night when they host the Vegas Golden Knights in the first meeting between the teams since the Western Conference final last spring, which Vegas won in five games.
The Jets then close out their pre-All Star game schedule with a pair of contests on the road in Nashville and Dallas later in the week.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.