WINNIPEG — Josh Morrissey credits a stretch of time at home for helping the Winnipeg Jets regroup and battle for a playoff berth.
The star defenceman had a goal and two assists Monday night as Winnipeg took another major step toward capturing that post-season spot with a 6-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
“I think we’re playing with a freedom since we got back off the road,” Morrissey said. “For this entire homestand, we got some nice rest, which was awesome after a tough stretch of road hockey.”
Adam Lowry, Mason Appleton, Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele each had a goal and assist. Pierre-Luc Dubois also scored for the Jets (45-32-3) and Nino Niederreiter and Dylan DeMelo each contributed a pair of helpers.
Connor Hellebuyck made 19 saves in his 12th consecutive start for Winnipeg, which ended a five-game homestand with a 4-1-0 record and are 6-3-0 in its past nine games.
The Jets, who received a standing ovation from 13,428 fans shouting “Go Jets Go” at Canada Life Centre, play their final two NHL regular-season games on the road against the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche.
Winnipeg now has 93 points and can clinch the Western Conference’s final wild-card berth by gaining at least a point in their final two games.
“We’ve been preaching the last little while to stay aggressive, stay aggressive. We’re going for it,” Jets coach Rick Bowness said.
The Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators are also in the hunt for that final wild-card spot. The Flames hosted the Predators Monday night. Calgary had 90 points going into its 81st game. Nashville was sitting at 88 points with two games to follow the match. Neither team can afford to lose.
Erik Karlsson scored twice for San Jose, giving him 100 points in 80 games this season. The 32-year-old is the first NHL defenceman to reach that mark since 1991-92 (New York Rangers Brian Leetch).
“I think I’m physically and mentally in a good spot in my life and I’ve just been trying to keep it going day by day and keep the motivation going as best as possible,” Karlsson said. “You know, it’s been tough as of lately but (I’ve) managed a way to get it done and I’m happy about that.”
James Reimer stopped 27 shots for the Sharks.
Winnipeg led 3-1 after the first period and the score stayed the same following the second.
Both teams scored on their first shot on goal.
Karlsson took a pass from second-year forward Jacob Peterson and beat Hellebuyck 20 seconds into the game.
Peterson extended his career-high point streak to seven games (two goals, five assists). Logan Couture also picked up an assist, giving him 700 career points.
“It’s a cool milestone,” Couture said of his 700 points. “Not a lot of players that play this game in this league get to that level so I cherish that. It means a lot to me.”
Dubois evened it up on the power play with a one-timer at 1:11, which gave the centre a career-high 62 points in 72 games.
Nikolaj Ehlers contributed an assist, stretching his point streak to five games with three goals and four assists.
Lowry got his stick on a loose puck after a Niederreiter wraparound attempt and made it 2-1 at 7:14. Connor widened the lead by tipping in DeMelo’s point shot with 5:34 left in the first.
Four goals were scored in under eight minutes of the third.
Appleton made it 4-1 just 16 seconds into the period when he one-timed a rebound.
Karlsson scored his second goal of the game on the power play at 3:42, but Morrissey fired the puck by Reimer two minutes later and Scheifele scored his 41st goal of the season at 7:35.
“It’s a lot of points, and he certainly deserves it,” Couture said of Karlsson. “He’s created a lot offensively for us this year.
“He could probably be at 120 or 130 by now if guys would finish off some of the dishes he’s made. But 100, it’s a special number.”
Karlsson also became the first Swedish-born defenceman in NHL history to reach 100 points.
Defencemen had recorded 100-point campaigns in 14 seasons in NHL history. Bobby Orr did it six times, Paul Coffey five seasons and Leetch, Al MacInnis and Denis Potvin once each.
“I’ve been lucky to coach some great hockey players, but none greater than him, I’ll tell you that,” San Jose coach David Quinn said. “This guy has so much talent and so much skill.
“He’s such a brilliant hockey player, but he’s got the physical attributes to match. His physical gifts and his mental skills all work together. He’s competitive and fearless and just got world-class talent. And he’s healthy.
“Watching him every day, I knew how good he was, but I didn’t know he was this good. It’s just been a lot of fun to watch.”
Jets: Begin a two-game road trip in Minnesota Tuesday against the Wild.
Sharks: Conclude their season on the road with games Wednesday in Calgary and Thursday versus the Edmonton Oilers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2023.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press