Blake Wheeler

No hearing scheduled for Malkin after Wheeler hit

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Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin isn’t scheduled to face a disciplinary hearing for his hit on Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler on Thursday night, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

The incident occurred midway through the third period of Pittsburgh’s 4-3 OT win. Malkin was given an interference minor on the play — in addition to a roughing minor for the post-whistle scrum — and later rubbed salt into the wound by setting up Sidney Crosby for the OT winner.

Wheeler, meanwhile, left temporarily to undergo concussion protocol, but did return to the game.

The Penguins are back in action tonight, when they take on the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

 

Penguins top jets in chaotic, brutally physical game

PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 16:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Kris Letang #58 after getting an assist to give Crosby his 1000th career point in the first period during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at PPG PAINTS Arena on February 16, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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Probably the wildest game of the NHL schedule on Thursday took place in Pittsburgh where the Penguins were 4-3 winners over the Winnipeg Jets in what turned out to be a brutally physical and deliriously entertaining game.

Sidney Crosby recorded three points, including his 1,000th career point in the NHL, as well as the winning goal in overtime, to help lead the Penguins to what could end up being a costly win.

A few things that stood out in all of the madness.

— The Penguins ended up losing two defensemen during the game when Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta both left in the second period to injuries.

Schultz exited when he was hit from behind by Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and hit his head into the glass.

Maatta had to exit the game following a big open ice hit from Adam Lowry (watch it here).

With Schultz and Maatta out, the Penguins (who were already playing without Carl Hagelin, Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust at forward) had to play the final half of the game with only four defensemen. It clearly started to wear on them a bit as the Jets rallied from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the third period.

— Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, who scored a goal and assisted on Crosby’s winning goal thanks to an incredible individual effort, added to the physicality on more than one occasion, and especially in the third period when he rocked Blake Wheeler with this high hit in the slot in front of the Jets’ net.

Malkin ended up receiving a minor for interference and a minor for roughing as a result of that sequence. Given that he appeared to leave his feet prior to contact, and that it was a high hit, you can be certain the NHL’s department of player safety is going to be taking an extra look at that play.

Wheeler briefly exited to the Jets’ locker room but returned to the game later in the third period.

— With the NHL trade deadline less than two weeks away there was a belief that this could have been Marc-Andre Fleury‘s final start in Pittsburgh as a member of the Penguins. If it was, he went out in style playing a vintage Fleury game that included some highlight reel saves, a terrible goal against, poke checks, and a season-high 44 saves.

— After Fleury gave up a horrendous goal to Byfuglien to allow the Jets to take a 3-2 lead, erasing what had been a two-goal deficit, Crosby drew a penalty in the offensive zone to set up a Phil Kessel power play goal to send the game to overtime. The overtime period was nearly five full minutes of back-and-forth hockey that featured Fleury making a huge save on a breakaway, the Jets having a couple more near misses, and then Crosby eventually scoring the winner on this tap-in in front.

— With his three points, Crosby is now up to 64 points on the season and — for the time being — regained the lead in the NHL scoring race.

The Penguins are back in action on Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a huge game in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins lead the Blue Jackets by two points in the standings for the No. 2 spot.

Coach Mike Sullivan had no update on the status of Schultz or Maatta for that game.

Patrik Laine comes to the rescue as Jets snap four-game losing skid

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 13: Patrik Laine #29, playing his first NHL game, of the Winnipeg Jets celebrates scoring his first NHL goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during NHL action on October 22, 2016 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At top is Mathieu Perreault #85 of the Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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This could’ve been a completely demoralizing home stand for the Winnipeg Jets.

With three losses in four games, it’s still highly disappointing given their plight in the Western Conference, yet they were able to salvage at least one win before jetting out onto the road for four games. And they can thank an 18-year-old rookie scoring sensation for giving them a critical win over the struggling Dallas Stars on Tuesday.

Patrik Laine recorded the hat trick, his second goal of the game breaking a 2-2 deadlock late in the third period.

The Stars fought back to tie the game in the second period, before Laine, the second overall pick last June, did his thing with a pair of goals in the final 5:07 of regulation in a 5-2 Winnipeg win.

The winning goal? That’s an insane display of quick hands, as he stole the puck away from Dan Hamhuis and then, seemingly in one motion, fires a quick wrist shot over the left shoulder of Antti Niemi.

“We need a guy like that to step up and that’s something we’ve missed here in the past,” Blake Wheeler told the Winnipeg Sun. “Without a guy like that in the room, it’s typically a 2-2 game heading into overtime. That was pretty special.”

Per Sportsnet: Laine is the first NHL rookie with three hat tricks in a season since Teemu Selanne and Eric Lindros in 1992-1993. (Selanne, of course, famously achieved that feat while playing in Winnipeg.)

The Jets had lost four straight. Their playoff hopes are still bleak, improving only slightly following their win over the Stars. They’re only four points back of L.A. for the final wild card spot. The loss is another devastating one for Dallas, which is six points back of the Kings and facing an increasingly grim reality heading into the trade deadline.

Laine and Auston Matthews, meanwhile, continue to go toe-to-toe in the rookie goal scoring race.

Matthews scored twice versus the Islanders, bringing his total to 27 goals (and 46 points). Laine, with his hat trick, is up to 26 goals and 47 points.

Jets hope Pavelec, who’s started eight of last nine, will only miss a week

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Goalie Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during a break in the action as he defends the goal against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Jets 1-0 in an overtime shootout.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Ondrej Pavelec‘s been a busy man since getting recalled from the AHL, but he’ll be sidelined for at least the next week.

Pavelec, who exited Tuesday’s loss to Minnesota with a lower-body injury, is likely to be out for seven days with the ailment — and the Jets are hopeful it’ll only be those seven days.

“We’re hoping we could rehab this in a week,” head coach Paul Maurice said today, per the Sun. “Things have to go right kind of at each stage of this week, but we’re hoping it will be about a week.”

Pavelec allowed three goals on 14 shots against the Wild before exiting. And while his numbers aren’t great since the recall — 4-4-0, .888 save percentage, 3.55 GAA — the Jets insist he’s providing them with good goaltending.

“There’s a trust factor there,” captain Blake Wheeler said of Pavelec, also per the Sun. “He’s capable of making some big stops for us. He did that in Denver [23 saves on 27 shots on Feb. 4].

“He made some incredible saves. We get one or two of those we’re going to be tough to beat.”

The Jets are back in actino tomorrow, when they host the Blackhawks. Connor Hellebuyck is expected to get the start in goal.

 

Video: Ward takes huge hit, but sets up goal

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Sharks coach Peter DeBoer wanted a lot more out of his team following a lackluster shutout loss to St. Louis. Joel Ward more than delivered.

Ward had a short-handed goal and took a hard hit to assist on Timo Meier‘s score, helping San Jose beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 on Monday for just its third win in eight games.

“That’s the commitment we talk about,” DeBoer said. “Taking that hit, making that play scores the goal. We need that. Joel’s a guy that brings that to the rink almost every night. That’s what it’s going to take at this time of year in order to have success.”

Brent Burns and Chris Tierney also scored and Joe Thornton had an empty-netter as the Sharks bounced back nicely from a 4-0 home loss to St. Louis on Saturday. Martin Jones made 26 saves, allowing two late goals after the game had been decided.

Josh Morrissey broke up the shutout with 2:36 to play and Mark Scheifele added a goal in the final minute after Jones tried to shoot the puck toward the empty net but hit Scheifele instead.

“That’s the first time I’ve tried, and probably the last, too,” Jones said.

Michael Hutchinson made 27 saves for the Jets, who have dropped four in a row.

The Sharks broke open a close game with two goals in the first half of the second period, starting when Mark Stuart jumped up into the play and flattened Ward on a clean hit in front of the Jets bench.

Ward’s head slammed against the ice but the Sharks took advantage of Stuart’s aggressiveness with a breakaway when Chris Tierney played the puck ahead to Meier, who beat Hutchinson for his second career goal.

“It was a hockey play. It was a good hit,” Ward said. “I tried to get the puck out obviously, and next thing I knew I was on my back and heard the horn go off. I wasn’t too sure what happened after that.”

Ward was taken off for observation to make sure he didn’t have a concussion. By the time he returned midway through the second, the Sharks had added to the lead.

Paul Potsma was penalized for closing his hand on the puck and Burns made the Jets pay when his point shot hit off the back boards and then deflected off an unsuspecting Hutchinson’s skate and into the net for Burns’ 18th goal of the season.

“The third goal was just one of those bounces you get when you’re going through a rough patch,” Hutchinson said. “It got shot through a screen and I felt it hit my skate and as soon as that happened I kind of kicked it pretty hard.”

The Jets had some good chances early but Jones robbed Shawn Matthias twice in the opening minutes of the first period and Blake Wheeler hit a post later in the first.

Winnipeg also got the first power-play chance when David Schlemko was called for a high stick, but the Sharks scored when Dustin Byfuglien couldn’t keep the puck in the offensive zone. Ward went in on a partial breakaway and beat Hutchinson with a shot from the top of the circle to make it 1-0 just 15 seconds into the man advantage.

“You can’t give up so many grade-A chances and expect them all to be saved, we have to help our goaltenders,” Scheifele said. “We’re just getting away from our game.”

Tierney took another high-sticking penalty for the Sharks, but the Jets couldn’t score on the 15-second two-man advantage or either power play.

NOTES: All three of Thornton’s goals this season have been empty-netters. … Stuart fought with Micheal Haley in the first period…. Sharks F Joonas Donskoi missed a second straight game with an upper-body injury.

UP NEXT

Jets: Host Arizona on Wednesday.

Sharks: Visit Los Angeles on Wednesday.