WINNIPEG – Early in the third period, it seemed like the rout was on.
The visiting Carolina Hurricanes had opened up a 4-1 lead thanks to a pair of power play goals, but the Winnipeg Jets would not go quietly into the night.
The Jets scored three unanswered goals in the third to send it to overtime, where Mark Scheifele sealed the comeback with the winner in a 5-4 thriller at MTS Centre.
Shawn Matthias opened the scoring in the first before the Hurricanes took over. The visitors had a 3-1 lead after two, and Victor Rask’s power play marker 5:02 into the third made it 4-1.
But just nine seconds later, the captain Blake Wheeler scored a short-handed goal to give the team life.
Though the Jets power play had struggled for most of the night, it finally cashed in as Patrik Laine blasted one past Cam Ward to make it a one-goal game with under seven minutes to go.
With their net empty, the Jets tied it with 89 seconds left: Laine with a great cross-ice feed to Wheeler, whose shot on goal was deflected in by Mathieu Perreault.
And as seems to happen in 3-on-3 overtime, Scheifele and Wheeler found themselves on an odd-man rush in the extra frame. A perfect pass from the captain, and Scheifele made no mistake, sending the sellout crowd into delirium.
“You score your first NHL goal just once, so it was nice to get it in the first game. It was just amazing to feel the atmosphere at the rink,” Laine says. “It was nice to have all of my family members here to see my first game, I think it was a nice moment for them to see their son get his first NHL goal.”
Connor Hellebuyck made 23 saves for the win. Cam Ward allowed five goals on 26 shots in the loss.
Special teams certainly played a big role in the game. The Jets went 1-for-5 on the power play, allowed two power play goals, but also scored one short-handed.
“We wanted to have a good third period, didn’t really get off to the start we wanted,” explains Wheeler. “But we just started to get a little bit quicker on the puck, and when the momentum changes like that in this league, it’s hard to stop it. Luckily the clock didn’t run out on us, and we were able to tie it up and get a big win.”
One question that remains going forward is the status of Bryan Little, who left the game after a collision in the first. He couldn’t put any weight on his leg, and the team says he has a lower-body injury.
“Losing Bryan, he played two-and-a-half minutes, that’s a big hole for us,” says head coach Paul Maurice. “If this was an old, veteran team we would be talking about their resilience and their know-how, so let’s just apply those to a really young team and be happy with the way they battled back.
Before the game the team honoured the late Len “Kroppy” Kropioski, playing a video tribute before a member of the Kenora Legion played The Last Post. The MTS Centre then went silent, the lights were dimmed and the spotlight shone on Kroppy’s empty seat.
The Jets return to action Saturday night in Minnesota.