WINNIPEG – Who else would you expect to get the OT winner on Mark Scheifele bobblehead night?
The Winnipeg Jets’ top centre potted his 30th of the season in overtime, capping off a furious rally in a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
It’s just the second win for Winnipeg in the last 14 meetings between the two clubs, and it looked for a while like it would not end that way, down 3-1 heading into the third.
“The battle back that we had in the last ten minutes was awesome,” Scheifele said. “Obviously the playoffs are out of reach, but there’s lots to fight for. Guys fighting for jobs, guys showing what they’re made of, and they definitely showed it tonight.”
After Anaheim opened the scoring in the first, Joel Armia continued his excellent play of late, squeezing a surprise shorthanded wrister past Jonathan Bernier.
But about seven minutes into the second frame, the hated Corey Perry slipped a power play goal short side on Michael Hutchinson, once again drawing back into the crease. This came after Perry banged home an enormous rebound off Hutchinson with just seconds to go in the first.
The Jets absolutely dominated play in the third, cutting the lead to one thanks to Blake Wheeler’s 24th of the year about midway through. The last ten minutes was a pressure cooker, the Jets pouring everything they could into an attack you would have expected from the team in a division race, not the one that already knows they’ll be watching the playoffs from home.
It seemed like the push would come up empty, but Dustin Byfuglien crashed the net and managed to bang home a loose puck to tie it with 12 seconds left, sending the dedicated fans that still remained into a frenzy.
After each team hit a crossbar in overtime, Scheifele made a great play 1-on-1 to get the puck to the net, drawing a penalty and leading to a great look on the delayed call that finished off the rally.
Spotting opponents a 3-1 lead seems to be right where Winnipeg wants them as this was their second straight rally from 3-1 down to win in extra time.
“We decided to not just quit. We’ve got 15,000 fans out there so it would not be very nice to them to just go out and play,” explained Nikolaj Ehlers, the game’s first star with a pair of assists and a blazing display of speed all night. “We know we’re a good hockey team, we haven’t shown that as much as we wanted to this year, but we want to finish up strong because the next season, we might as well start looking forward to that now.”
With the win the Jets eclipsed their win total from last season, a small consolation when the end result still sees the team missing the postseason.
“The fact that we’re winning hockey games at this time of year with nothing to play for says a lot about the guys that we have,” Wheeler said. “How do you bottle that up? It just comes with growing up a little bit, establishing who’s doing what role on a team, not just having four lines and six defencemen trying to score goals all the time.”
Patrik Laine’s cold spell continued as the rookie finished pointless for the 8th time in his last 10 games. Hopes of a Calder Trophy seem to be evaporating as Auston Matthews leads Toronto toward a playoff spot.
The Jets now have just four games left in the season, all four of them against likely playoff teams. Ottawa hasn’t clinched yet but are almost across the finish line, they will meet the Jets at MTS Centre Saturday night.