Goaltender Michael Hutchinson pulled off a 28-save performance as the Winnipeg Jets edged the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 on Sunday night in front of a jubilant home crowd. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The Jets' roster is battered, and the team's playoff hopes are almost fatally bruised, yet a tight win over the Vancouver Canucks showed that Winnipeg hasn't thrown in the towel yet.
Thanks to a sparkling power play, a 28-save performance by goaltender Michael Hutchinson, and a two-point night from red-hot center Mathieu Perreault, the Jets edged the Canucks 2-1 on Sunday night in front of a jubilant home crowd.
"We still have to play games, so we come to the rink and try to win hockey games," said Perreault, who scored the Jets' opening goal and notched a helper on Adam Lowry's game-winner.
"Hutch was great for us tonight. It's always nice to see him play well. You know he's battling in the net. We're just trying to build confidence within our group, play hard and that's just all we can do right now."
With six games left to play, the Jets (34-35-7) need to win out to have any hope of a postseason, and the end is all but assured. Vancouver (30-36-8) was formally eliminated from contention on Thursday.
On the other side of the ice, the Canucks didn't generate much offense as captain Henrik Sedin was hoping to see; they hung tight thanks in large part to goalie Ryan Miller, who turned away 30 of the 32 shots he faced.
"I think we could have done a better job of forechecking for sure," Sedin said. "They're missing quite a few defensemen, so I think we could've put more pressure on them. They played a simple game, they got pucks out and their forwards are fast, so they made it tough on us."
Meanwhile, Miller couldn't stop the Jets' game-winner, which came with 8:13 remaining in regulation.
With Vancouver center Michael Chaput in the box for high-sticking, Jets Lowry took a slick pass from Perreault and buried it past Miller for the 2-1 lead. It was the first game-winner in Lowry's three-year career.
"It's always nice to score goals at crucial times," Lowry said. "At this time of the year, it's still fun to win. We're still trying to put our best foot forward in the game. I was pretty excited."
Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler picked up an assist on that goal. In fact, Wheeler and Perreault figured into both Jets' markers, as the home team went 2-for-2 on the power play.
Vancouver opened scoring for the fourth game in a row. There were only 21 seconds left in the first period when Canucks defenseman Alex Edler's wrister beat Hutchinson.
Defenseman Chris Tanev and center Bo Horvat picked up assists on the goal.
The Jets replied late in the second, after rookie Vancouver center Joseph LaBate took a minor for tripping -- the first penalty of the game. Halfway through the ensuing power play, Perreault sniped a shot past Miller, tying things up.
It was the seventh goal in 17 games for Perreault, and extended his point streak to six games. Wheeler and center Mark Scheifele were credited with helpers.
Vancouver nearly wrested the lead back on its own power play minutes later, after Jets defenseman Julian Melchiori went to the box for interference. But Tanev dinged a shot off the post, while Hutchinson stopped a dangerous shot by Canucks right winger Brock Boeser -- who signed his first NHL contract, and scored his first NHL goal, a day earlier.
Before joining the Canucks, Boeser played NCAA hockey at the University of North Dakota, only a two-hour drive from Winnipeg. So his debut at MTS Centre featured a cheering section composed of former UND roommates and teammates.
After less than 48 hours, the NHL experience was starting to sink in.
"I finally started to settle down during the day today," Boeser said. "I just wanted to stay calm, stay poised and show up to the rink today and work as hard as I could and help contribute in any way."
-- There was sibling rivalry on the opening faceoff, as Jets coach Paul Maurice put LW Brandon Tanev out at puck drop while his older brother, D Chris Tanev, started the game for the Canucks.
-- Jets RW Patrik Laine (illness) did not play on Sunday. With 34 goals and 61 points on the season, Laine stands tied with Toronto C Auston Matthews for the NHL's rookie scoring lead.
-- Injuries continue to plague the Jets defense corps, with Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Paul Postma and Ben Chiarot all out.
-- Rookie D Josh Morrissey is the only Jet defenseman to have played all 76 games.
-- Vancouver LW Loui Eriksson missed his ninth straight game with a leg injury.
-- Injuries also kept Canucks C Brendan Gaunce, C Jayson Megna and C Joseph Cramarossa out of Sunday's game.