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

AP

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.”

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