Jets prepared for Western Conference showdown vs. Golden Knights

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Patrik Laine hasn’t forgotten how the Western Conference Final turned out. After the Winnipeg Jets topped the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1, 4-2, the NHL’s newest expansion team didn’t lose again in the series en route to a place in the Stanley Cup Final.

So when the Golden Knights visit the Jets Tuesday night at MTS Centre, some revenge will be on the minds of Laine and his teammates.

“Obviously, they kicked our ass in the playoffs,” Laine said Monday. “We want to win [Tuesday] and get the two points.”

The two points will be huge for either team as the Jets, who have played the fewest games (45) among the top three teams in the Central Division, look to extend their division lead, and the Golden Knights try to remain red-hot and chip away at the Calgary Flames’ lead in the Pacific Division.

Both teams have a pair of tests this week after the conference final rematch Tuesday. Vegas heads home to welcome a Pittsburgh Penguins team on Saturday that’s playing very well. Winnipeg hops on a plane to visit the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

“The games will bring their own intensity,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “Against the teams that aren’t right now in the playoff picture, our record is spectacular. So we haven’t taken anybody lightly. The challenges for us these next two games aren’t that. It would be playing well against good teams when you’re in the middle of a pretty good grinder missing some guys (Tyler Myers, Dustin Byfuglien, Nikolaj Ehlers). Not excuses.”

Tuesday’s matchup will also be the first time Paul Stastny sees his old pals since leaving in free agency during the summer. After an October injury kept him sidelined for two months, the 33-year-old forward has resumed compliling the points and has 13 in 18 games this season.

Stastny’s return has certainly helped Vegas in their second year to maintain the successful results they experienced in 2017-18. A slow start to the season has turned into a two-month run that’s seen them take 43 out of a possible 56 points over their last 28 games (20-5-3).

Maybe another rematch in mid-May is in the cards?

“Now they look as powerful, if not more, than they did at any point last year. They’re a year further into their program,” Maurice said. “They still have that real veteran team. They don’t have a lot of kids in that lineup. And they’re deep. They’ll go four lines all night long.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Aho helps Hurricanes keep rolling; Islanders, Flames win big

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Three Stars

1. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes. With wins in seven out of their past eight games the Carolina Hurricanes are trying to make a run at a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They continued their recent strong play on Sunday afternoon with a very impressive win over one of the league’s best teams, the Nashville Predators, and it was Sebastian Aho once again leading the way. Aho finished with four points, including a hat trick, in the 6-3 win. Aho now has 12 points during this recent eight-game stretch and is up to 21 goals and 51 total points for the season. He is having an incredible season.

2. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames. The Calgary Flames are looking like one of the best teams in the NHL and dominated the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday night with an emphatic 7-1 win that featured another huge game for Norris Trophy contender Mark Giordano. Giordano scored two goals and added an assist in the win as he continues what has been the best season of his already strong career.

3. Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders. This was a complete beatdown for the New York Islanders as they raced out to an early three-goal lead against the NHL’s best team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and never looked back. One of the reasons they never looked back is because Thomas Greiss stopped 38 out of the 39 shots he faced. Regular starter Robin Lehner has been one of the Islanders’ best and most important players this season, but Greiss has been outstanding as well and now has a save percentage north of .917 for the season, which is well above the league average. 

Other notable performances from Sunday

  • Artemi Panarin had two more points and Nick Foligno scored two goals as the Columbus Blue Jackets were all over the New York Rangers in a 7-5 win that left Rangers coach David Quinn fuming angry after it was over.
  • Johnny Gaudreau had two more points to give him 67 on the season, tying him with Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid for third-most in the league. They are both just one point behind Mikko Rantanen of the Colroado Avalanche for second in the scoring race. Everyone is a distance second to Tampa Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who was held off the scoresheet on Sunday night, something that has not happened very much this season.
  • The New York Islanders’ fourth line played a big role in their win over the Tampa Bay Lightning by scoring a pair of goals. Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, and Matt Martin all had two points in the win.

Highlights of the Night

Yes, it came in a losing effort but Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg scored a pretty incredible goal on Sunday afternoon.

The Vancouver Canucks did not get Michael Matheson to drop the gloves in response to his body-slam on prized rookie Elias Petterson earlier this season, but they did get plenty of revenge on the scored with a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Jacob Markstrom had a great night in goal against his former team with this fancy glove save being his best of the night. 

The Winnipeg Jets sent the Anaheim Ducks to their 11th straight defeat thanks to this overtime goal from Bryan Little with 10 seconds remaining in the overtime period. 

Factoids

  • Winnipeg Jet forward Patrik Laine scored his 25th goal of the season on Sunday, giving him three 25-goal seasons in the NHL before celebrating his 21st birthday. Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Carpenter, Dale Hawerchuk, Brian Bellows, Jimmy Carson, and Ilya Kovalchuk are the only other players in league history to accomplish that feat. [NHL PR]
  • The Calgary Flames needed just 47 games to record their 30th win of the season, matching a franchise record for fewest games needed to win 30 games in a season. The other season they did it was the 1988-89 campaign, when they went on to win the Stanley Cup. [NHL PR]
  • Carolina Hurricanes forward Justin Williams extended his goal-scoring streak to five games on Sunday afternoon, making him just the sixth player in NHL history to record a goal-scoring streak of at least five games after celebrating their 37th birthday. [NHL PR]

Scores

Carolina Hurricanes 6, Nashville Predators 3

Winnipeg Jets 4, Anaheim Ducks 3 (OT)

Columbus Blue Jackets 7, New York Rangers 5

Vancouver Canucks 5, Florida Panthers 1

New York Islanders 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Calgary Flames 7, Arizona Coyotes 1

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Ducks drop 11th straight as GM stands behind Carlyle

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It just keeps getting worse for the Anaheim Ducks.

Their ongoing losing streak reached 11 games on Sunday night with a crushing 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets that saw them blow another multi-goal first period lead, and then give up the winner with only 10 seconds remaining in the extra period.

Bryan Little‘s goal was the difference and continued the Ducks’ recent misery.

What makes it even worse is that they actually had another fast start by jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first 16 minutes thanks to goals from Brian Gibbons and Rickard Rakell. It would prove to be short-lived as a Blake Wheeler goal with less than a minute to play in the period and a Patrik Laine goal just two minutes into the second tied the game.

This all came after the Ducks let a 3-0 first period lead slip away on Friday night in what go on to be a 7-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

That game resulted in Ducks coach Randy Carlyle facing questions about his job security. Those questions are not going to go away as long as the team continues to lose the way it has. But less than an hour after Sunday’s game ended general manager Bob Murray issued a statement saying that he is, at least for the time being, sticking by his coach.

“While it’s not my preference to make comments on this topic during the season, our recent play has led to many questions. Our fans are frustrated, rightfully so, and deserve a response from me,” said Murray in the statement.

“At this time, I am not considering a coaching change. I am more focussed on our players, specifically with who is going to step up in this situation. The way we played tonight was a step in the right direction, but we need much, much more. We have higher expectations for this group, and they should expect more from themselves.”

In some way, he is not wrong about Sunday’s game. This game was a much better overall effort than what they put forward on Friday night, and it easily could have ended with a different result.

On the other hand, when you have lost 11 games in a row there really is not much room for moral victories.

Really, though, the only good thing you can say about this game from a Ducks perspective is that they were at least able to get a point and tie the Wild (currently the owners of the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference) in the standings. But the Ducks have played two more games, still have one of the worst goal differentials in the NHL (minus-28), and are near the bottom of the league when it comes to their ability to prevent shots and scoring chances. That all adds up to a bad team. It is hard to see how much that will change as long as everything remains the same.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Wild build lead, survive shotless third period to down Jets

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The Minnesota Wild are exacting a bit of revenge against the Winnipeg Jets this season.

For the second time in 13 days and third time this season, the Wild have found their way past the Jets. A 4-2 win back in November was followed up by a 3-1 win on Dec. 29 and then on Thursday night on NBCSN, the Wild did just enough to earn a 3-2 win despite not shooting one puck on goal in the third period.

Considering the Jets owned the Wild last season (3-1-0 in the regular season a before bouncing Minnesota in five games in the playoffs), it’s a decent consolation given that last season is behind them and the Wild are in a dogfight at the moment for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Whatever the formula is, it’s proven to be potent. The Wild have figured out how to stall Winnipeg’s power play — Winnipeg’s bread and butter — and stymie them 5-on-5.

Their game plan worked well once again after building a 3-0 lead, including back-to-back goals by Jason Zucker in the second period.

Winnipeg finally found a hole in Devan Dubnyk with 41 seconds left in the second. Given that the Jets had 57 goals this season in the third period, it wasn’t over but they needed a big period.

They engineered just that, outshooting the Wild 13-0 in the period (Minnesota’s only real flaw in the game). It was all Jets, and Mark Scheifele pulled Winnipeg to 3-2 with the extra attacker on the ice at 17:22.

But even with Minnesota’s failure to put a shot on goal, it was Devan Dubnyk, who stopped 26-of-28, that proved to be the difference as the Wild erased bad memories of a 4-0 loss to the Bruins on Tuesday.

Patrik Laine‘s struggles continued on Thursday. His most notable moment was a giveaway in the first period, which isn’t what you’d want to hear if you’re a prolific sniper.

Streaky is the name of Laine’s game, and has been since he got into the NHL as the second overall pick in 2016.

He’s got 24 goals this season, tied for 10th in the NHL, but they largely came in one white-hot stretch. Here’s the breakdown:

  • First 12 games: three goals
  • Next 12 games: 18 goals
  • Next 19 games: three goals

Laine’s bound to bite back with a vengeance, that’s what he does. But the Jets are missing that scoring, especially on the power play, where they are now five-for-25 over their past 10 games. If you take out their 3-for-4 performance against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, it only looks worse.

Full credit to the Wild, who paid no attention to Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba, who was operating up top on the point. That allows the Wild to cover off Blake Wheeler, Scheifele and, of course, Laine. Winnipeg’s power play went 0-for-4.

They also blocked 22 shots in the game. That’s a committed effort in a team as dangerous as Winnipeg is with the puck.

Here’s Charlie Coyle on the success Minnesota found:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Jets take on Wild in Central Division clash

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Minnesota is coming off a 4-0 shutout loss in Boston on Tuesday night, which snapped a three-game winning streak. This game is the Wild’s first home game in 201, and the team is looking to snap a four-game losing streak at Xcel Energy Center.

They’ve dropped six of their last eight home games (2-5-1) after going 8-2-2 in their first 12 games at home.

Zach Parise, one of the “Last Men In” All-Star candidates, has 38 points (19G-19A) in 41 games this season, and is averaging 0.93 points/game, his best since 2009-10 (averaged 1.01). He leads the team in goals (19) and has nine points (4G-5A) in the last seven games.

It was Winnipeg’s stars who all shined bright in Tuesday’s win vs. Colorado, with Blake Wheeler recording four pts (1G-3A), and Mark Scheifele (1G-2A) and Jacob Trouba each recording 3 pts (1G-2A).

While the Jets are in good playoff position entering the second half of the season, the team is focused on trying to become a more consistent force, and are trying to use last years’ experience of reaching the Western Conference Final to help lead to another successful run.

“We’re happy with where we’re at in the standings… but overall, as good as we’ve played, we know we have another level that we can get to,” said Bryan Little. “It only gets harder from here. For us, it’s just to elevate our game and to get ready for that.”

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild
Where: Xcel Energy Center
When: Thursday, Jan. 10, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Jets-Wild stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

JETS
Kyle Connor – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
Patrik Laine – Bryan Little – Jack Roslovic
Mathieu PerreaultAdam LowryBrandon Tanev
Brendan LemieuxAndrew CoppMason Appleton

Josh Morrissey – Jacob Trouba
Ben ChiarotTyler Myers
Dmitry KulikovJoe Morrow

Starting goalie: Connor Hellebuyck

WILD
Jordan GreenwayEric StaalNino Niederreiter
Zach Parise – Charlie CoyleLuke Kunin
Jason ZuckerMikko KoivuMikael Granlund
Marcus FolignoJoel Eriksson EkMatt Hendricks

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon
Jonas BrodinGreg Pateryn
Nick SeelerNate Prosser

Starting goalie: Devan Dubnyk

John Walton (play-by-play) and Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Jets-Wild from Xcel Energy Center. Tappen, Milbury and Jeremy Roenick will anchor studio coverage.