Cam Tucker

AP

Jets earn first win of the season — with Connor Hellebuyck in net

Nikolaj Ehlers became the latest NHL player to record a hat trick in the opening week of the new season. And the Winnipeg Jets grabbed their first win of 2017-18 — with Connor Hellebuyck in net.

Ehlers scored three straight goals and Winnipeg’s top line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele was dominant, as the Jets overcame a brief second-period hiccup to defeat the Edmonton Oilers by a score 5-2 on Monday.

Meanwhile, Hellebuyck made his first start in net and turned aside 37 of 39 shots faced. He gave up a pair of goals, which came 40 seconds apart in the second period, but aside from that, Winnipeg received solid goaltending in this one.

Hellebuyck night’s included 20 stops in the first period, as well. And it would seem following his effort tonight that Winnipeg’s coach Paul Maurice faces an interesting decision about who he will start in net in their next game, which goes Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks.

“It’s a break. It’s exactly that. (Mason) has seen a lot of action – more than he needed to in Calgary for sure,” said Maurice, per the Winnipeg Sun, before Monday’s win. “(Hellebuyck) is a good goaltender. He started most nights for us last year. He’s excited about this tonight.”

One of the biggest issues facing the Jets over the last few years has been the play of their goaltenders.

Last season, Winnipeg was seventh in the league in goals-for, averaging three goals a game. Scoring goals, or having the talent in their lineup to produce offensively wasn’t an issue. The problem was that the Jets also gave up 3.11 goals-against per game, which was the fourth worst number in the league.

While Hellebuyck was solid in his season debut, providing some excitement for Jets fans beyond the Ehlers hat trick, Steve Mason has had a difficult start to his first campaign in Winnipeg after he signed a two-year, $8.2 million deal as a free agent this summer. He gave up five goals in the season opener against a very dangerous Toronto lineup before getting pulled, and then six goals on 45 shots against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

“What I thought for Connor that was so important — he looked calm when he didn’t have control of the puck but it was two or three feet around him,” said Maurice of Hellebuyck. “He worked hard to find the pucks through traffic. They got an awful lot through traffic, especially in the first period, and he had his glove going and he found them.”

Video: Auston Matthews scores a beauty to complete Maple Leafs comeback

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The two highest scoring teams through the opening few days of the NHL season met on Monday, and Auston Matthews played the hero.

Matthews scored the overtime winner, breaking down the right side of the ice on a two-on-one rush and firing a perfect wrist shot over the shoulder of back-up goalie Anton Forsberg to give the Maple Leafs a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

In what has been a chaotic, fun, high scoring opening week of the NHL season, these two teams had each scored 15 goals through two games entering Monday’s contest. Chicago was able to grab a two-goal lead in the third period, before the Maple Leafs began their comeback.

It seemed like only a matter of time before the dam broke for the Maple Leafs.

They dominated when it came to puck possession, per hockeystats.ca, and fired 43 shots against Forsberg, including 36 through the final two periods and into overtime. With that roster, equipped with that much top-end and youthful talent, it wasn’t long after the Blackhawks increased their lead that the Maple Leafs came roaring back on goals 2:42 apart from Connor Brown and James van Riemsdyk.

With the first overall selection of Matthews and his incredible arrival at the beginning of last season, the Maple Leafs have seen their rebuild accelerate. They made the playoffs and offered a significant challenge to the Washington Capitals. They still have a young roster that will be challenged at points throughout this season, especially when (or if) those younger players go through any prolonged slumps.

The expectations around this group have certainly increased in the last year. They’re off to a 3-0 start, and have been piling up the goals. They didn’t put a large number on the board Monday, but they still illustrated how dangerous and dynamic they can be, with Matthews putting the finishing touches on that versus the Blackhawks.

Video: Blues’ Bortuzzo fined for cross checking Islanders’ Nelson

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Robert Bortuzzo has been fined for a trio of cross checks he threw on Brock Nelson during Monday’s game between the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues.

The incident occurred during the second period, when Bortuzzo, the Blues defenseman, took exception to Nelson colliding with Magnus Paajarvi away from the puck, and delivered three cross checks to the Islanders forward.

The first knocked Nelson to the ice. Bortuzzo then delivered two more to the back of Nelson while he was down on the ice, earning two penalties on the play.

Following the game, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced it had fined Bortuzzo $3,091.40.

‘Fun to watch’ — Devils rookie Jesper Bratt off to hot start

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Bovada has released its Calder Trophy odds, and the names on the list shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes tops the list at 9/2, followed by 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier, who recorded his first NHL point for the New Jersey Devils on Monday, and what a thing of beauty that was.

Here’s a look at the list:

Clayton Keller (Arizona): 9/2

Nico Hischier (New Jersey): 5/1

Anders Bjork (Boston): 7/1

Brock Boeser (Vancouver): 7/1

Charlie McAvoy (Boston): 7/1

Alex DeBrincat (Chicago): 8/1

Nolan Patrick (Philadelphia): 9/1

Dylan Strome (Arizona): 9/1

Tyson Jost (Colorado): 12/1

Jakub Vrana (Washington): 20/1

Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton): 20/1

Again, nothing really out of the ordinary with that list, highlighted by top prospects and first-round draft picks. It’s still early and plenty can change, of course, but there is another first-year player that, if things continue the way they are going, should start to gain more attention throughout the league.

He isn’t a first-round pick.

No, you’d have to scroll all the way down to the sixth round and the 162nd overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft to find this player’s name.

At 19 years of age, Jesper Bratt of the Devils has been able to fly under the radar to some degree because of the addition of Hischier with the top pick in June, and a number of acquisitions made this offseason to upgrade that club’s offense heading into the 2017-18 campaign.

Maybe not for much longer, though.

The first week of the new NHL season isn’t over yet, but so far Bratt leads all NHL rookies with three goals and five points in two games. He scored twice on Monday, as the Devils crushed the Buffalo Sabres.

“He’s a really good hockey player already. He’s young and he just got over here,” said Devils forward Marcus Johansson, per NJ.com. “It’s fun to watch, and I think everyone can agree on that. If he keeps going at this pace, it’s going to be pretty impressive.”

It should be mentioned that he’s currently sporting a shooting percentage of 100. That will, likely at some point in the next few days, begin to go down. Early on, though, he’s been a productive player for a Devils team that made several high profile moves over the past two summers to improve their woeful scoring attack.

There have already been a few surprises to begin this NHL season. You can add the early breakout of Jesper Bratt to that list.

Penguins say White House visit not about politics

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins view their trip to the White House on Tuesday as the final moment of celebration for a championship season, not some sort of statement about where they stand on President Donald Trump.

“From my side of things, there’s absolutely no politics involved,” Crosby said Monday. “Hopefully it stays that way. It’s a visit we’ve done in the past. It’s been a good experience. It’s not about politics, that’s for sure.”

At least, it hasn’t been. Yet the Penguins have found themselves unwittingly thrust into the increasingly uncomfortable intersection of politics and sports.

Trump has taken aim at NFL players who protest during the national anthem, saying they should be fired. Trump also rescinded a White House invitation to Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry after the two-time MVP expressed reservations about going.

Read more:

Penguins and politics: Criticism for Crosby, Reaves won’t visit White House

Penguins announce they will accept White House visit

Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan he expects full attendance by his team for the brief ceremony, one the Penguins will make for a second straight year after becoming the first team in nearly two decades to win consecutive Stanley Cups. The Penguins are trying to focus on the reason they’ve been asked to stop by and nothing more.

“I think to have the opportunity to go to the White House obviously means that you’ve won a championship and that means a lot,” Sullivan said. “What our team has been able to accomplish in the last two seasons our team is extremely proud of.”

Still, it has put the Penguins into an uncomfortable position while representing a league that rarely, if ever, ventures into the political realm.

“I can’t speak for everyone else, I just grew up under the assumption that that wasn’t something really bred into sports (and) different things,” said Crosby, a native of Nova Scotia, Canada. “Everyone’s got their own view. That’s how I kind of grew up playing hockey. I wasn’t surrounded by that or didn’t have any examples, so I kind of understood it and stayed out of it.”

The 49-year-old Sullivan pointed out he’s been asked more about politics in the last three weeks than he has over the course of his entire hockey life — including a 12-year career as an NHL player and another decade-plus as a coach — combined.

“It’s not something that gets discussed at the rink,” Sullivan said.

Forward Phil Kessel, an American, acknowledged the outside forces at play but like his teammates is steering clear of venturing into an area that often doesn’t collide with hockey.

“Obviously there’s been issues but I’m not that political,” he said. “Most teams go and it is what it is.”