Wheeler helps Jets edge Blue Jackets 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Paul Maurice wants Winnipeg to play with more urgency at the beginning of games and close with confidence.
It looks as if the Jets are listening to their coach.
Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little each had a goal and an assist, and Winnipeg held on for a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
The Jets led the entire way and were in complete control late in the third period, especially after killing off a double minor penalty that appeared to be Columbus’ best chance to get back in the game.
But the Blue Jackets pulled Curtis McElhinney for an extra attacker, and Scott Hartnell scored from the left circle with 1:14 remaining.
Even though it got interesting at the end, Maurice was pleased with his team’s play, especially in the third.
“We had some real good offensive zone time,” he said. “Then did a real nice job killing that four-minute penalty.”
Rookie Andrew Copp scored his first career goal and Ondrej Pavelec had 19 saves as the Jets improved to 4-1-0 on the road.
The Blue Jackets dropped to 0-5-0 at home. They were coming off a 2-1 loss at Washington on Friday night.
“At times I thought we had chances to make plays and we have just not been able to,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “It’s been a struggle. I know it’s in the room. I know they are better players.”
Brandon Saad also scored for the Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped eight of 11 shots in the first period, and McElhinney had 16 saves in the final two periods.
“I watched that game very closely and they played a great game,” Maurice said of the Blue Jackets’ loss to the Capitals. “I think they spent a lot of energy so we were able to come out and get on them a little early.”
Winnipeg scored first for only the third time this season. Little drove a slap shot past Bobrovsky at 5:52 of the first period for his fifth of the season. The Blue Jackets got caught in a line change, leaving Little wide open down the right side.
“It does seem like we’ve had some slow starts lately,” Little said. “That’s something we talked about before the game. Coming out hard and kind of setting the tone for the game.”
Only 53 seconds later, Copp, all alone, scored from the low slot after a sneaky carom of the end board.
“It was a play we kind of talked about,” Copp said. “Getting the puck to the front of the net and fortunately it worked out.”
Midway through the period, Saad cut Winnipeg’s lead to one. Stationed at the left post, he tipped in Brandon Dubinsky’s cross-ice pass for his fourth in his first year with Columbus.
The Jets made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 16:59. Wheeler powered a shot from the left dot that Bobrovsky couldn’t handle with his glove.
“Really important,” Maurice said of Wheeler’s sixth goal of the season. “Especially because that particular power play was really strong. We ended up really needing it. It was the game winner.”
Wheeler has at least a point in all but one of Winnipeg’s games and is among the league scoring leaders with 14 overall. Dustin Byfuglien picked up his 350th career point on the play.
In the second period, each team had two power plays — Columbus’ Ryan Johansen, who didn’t play the past two games due to fatigue — took slashing and cross-checking penalties — but neither could cash in. Pavelec stopped Boone Jenner’s shot on a 2-on-1 with Saad on the best chance of the period.
“I thought we did a good job with the lead tonight,” Little said. “They got that that goal with the extra guy. Other than that we did a really good job staying aggressive, staying on them.”
NOTES: The Blue Jackets are 2-3-0 since Tortorella was hired as coach after an 0-7-0 start. ... Winnipeg rookie Nikolaj Ehlers’ five-game point streak ended. ... Saad returned after missing Friday’s game because of an illness. ... Jets D Tyler Myers and RW Drew Stafford played their 400th and 600th career games, respectively.