WINNIPEG — Head coach Rick Bowness was glad to see a combination of good effort and good luck pay off for the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.
Blake Wheeler snapped a 21-game goal drought and added an assist as the Jets showed a rare explosion of offence to earn a much-needed 6-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
“You need some breaks,” Bowness said. “Look at Mark (Scheifele’s) goal. All of a sudden he’s coming around the net, he knocks it in. It’s there.
“We haven’t had those breaks in a long time. Even that first goal, the tip (by Kyle Connor). We haven’t had that luck around the net in a long time and it was good to see.”
The Jets went into the match scoring three or less goals in nine consecutive games, including being shut out three times.
Bowness sent praise Wheeler’s way.
“That’s the best he’s skated in a while,” he said. ”I think the goal certainly gave him a big boost. The guys were all very happy for him. It gave the whole bench a boost.”
Scheifele, Connor, Dylan DeMelo and Nikolaj Ehlers also had a goal and assist for Winnipeg, which snapped a two-game losing skid and recorded the fourth win in its past nine games (4-5-0).
Nino Niederreiter scored Winnipeg’s other goal. Mason Appleton and Vladislav Namestnikov both contributed a pair of assists.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 23 shots for the Jets (42-31-3), who started a season-high five-game homestand as they try to hang on to the final Western Conference wild-card playoff berth.
Jets star defenceman Josh Morrissey didn’t play because he was “under the weather” but he’s expected to suit up for Sunday’s game against New Jersey, Bowness said.
David Perron and Joe Veleno scored third-period goals for the Red Wings (33-33-9), who were coming off a 3-2 win Thursday night at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Magnus Hellberg made 23 saves for Detroit, which began a three-game road trip.
The backup netminder gave his performance the thumb’s down.
“I think we had a tough start, but I don’t think I showed up to help the team win today,” said Hellberg, who played his 17th game this season.
“I take full responsibility for my performance tonight. It was clearly not good enough. I’m not happy with how I played.”
Winnipeg led 3-0 after the first period and 5-0 following the second.
Connor got things rolling when he stuck his stick out in front of the net and redirected Brenden Dillon’s point shot into the net at 6:56 of the opening period.
Wheeler notched his 16th goal of the season five minutes later when he rushed the net and used a pass from Ehlers to beat Hellberg.
Scheifele scored his team-leading 39th goal of the season, which is a career-best, at 13:34.
“Our first look was an east-west backdoor play that we weren’t able to finish and their first look was a deflection that went in,” Detroit head coach Derek Lalonde said.
“We couldn’t build any momentum throughout the night. I do appreciate the fact that we won the third period. We kind of battled and hung in there.”
DeMelo’s goal came off a wrist shot at 1:20 of the second period and was his fifth of the season and 23rd point, both career-highs.
Niederreiter scored with 6:18 remaining in the middle period. DeMelo picked up an assist.
Ehlers made it 6-0 at 5:07 of the third with a shot from the slot that went inside the post.
Detroit avoided a shutout when Perron scored during a power play at 10:41, followed 21 seconds later by Veleno’s goal.
Bowness has been preaching offence lately and changed his top line for the game to try to spark some productive shooting.
Scheifele moved from his centre spot to right wing, with Pierre-Luc Dubois in the middle and Connor on the left.
Scheifele then notched his first goal in 10 games, while Connor recorded his third goal in his past 19 games.
“It’s different, for sure,” Scheifele said of the switch. “I’ve played centre my whole life. It’s definitely an adjustment. But when you play with two good players like (Dubois) and (Connor) it makes it easy.”
The last time Winnipeg scored more than three goals was in a 5-4 overtime road win against the Florida Panthers on March 11.
Jets: Host the New Jersey Devils Sunday night.
Red Wings: Travel to Toronto to play the Maple Leafs Sunday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2023.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press