The Winnipeg Jets continue to have the New Jersey Devils’ number, knocking them off 6-3 Tuesday night for their 17th win over the Devils in 22 meetings since 2013.
Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers each notched a pair of goals, and Ehlers also had a third period fight to fall just an assist shy of the Gordie Howe hat trick.
“My mom and my sister are in town right now,” said Ehlers. “And earlier today, I told them that my fighting days are probably over with all the injuries I’ve had. So, that lasted about five hours.”
Ehlers, who is listed at six feet, and 172 pounds, took on the much bigger, six foot two, 200 pound Brendan Smith after the Devils defenceman drove Vladislav Namestnikov into the boards from behind.
“This guy is a warrior,” said Josh Morrissey. “I don’t know if he’s fought anyone in his weight class yet to be honest with you. So, there’s always a little bit of like, don’t do it. And then he always does way better than he should potentially. Or maybe now he should drop that label, and maybe that is his weight class.
“We don’t want him doing that all the time, but when he does it, it definitely sends a wave of energy through the team.”
Morrissey had a career-best four assists to tie the franchise record for most assists in game. It’s the third time that record has been tied already this season after Mark Scheifele and Alex Iafallo also had four assist efforts. Morrissey also became just the second defenceman in franchise history to have multiple four-point games, joining Dustin Byfuglien.
Connor also had an assist for a three point night. He now has 13 goals which ties Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews for the most in the NHL. He’s scored seven times in just his last four games with three different multi-goal games.
Cole Perfetti had two more points with a goal and an assist. He’s now riding both a four-game goal streak and a seven-game point streak. And he’s just the sixth player in franchise history with a four-game goal streak at age 21 or younger.
The Jets also lost forward Rasmus Kupari to injury in the first, putting them down to 10 forwards as they decided to skate with 11 forwards and seven defencemen in order to get Logan Stanley some game action, while sitting out a healthy David Gustafsson.
Kupari injured his shoulder after missing on a body check and looked to be in a ton of pain as he skated straight to the dressing room to never return.
“We’ll wait and see,” said interim head coach Scott Arniel. “Get looked at a little bit more tomorrow and see where it’s at.”
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the first period. Both teams failed once on the power play as Winnipeg carried a 9-7 edge in shots on goal into the second period.
Connor was the one to break the goose-egg 8:07 into the middle frame. Moments after Scheifele hit the crossbar, Connor was denied from the slot by Akira Schmid but he tucked home the rebound for his 12th of the season.
Mason Appleton came close to doubling Winnipeg’s lead with just over seven minutes to go in the second when he blasted a wrist shot off the crossbar.
Not long after that happened, Tyler Toffoli was handed a cross-checking penalty and the Jets power play cashed in.
Perfetti’s shot from the slot deflected off a Devils’ stick and fooled Schmid as it floated into the net at the 13:54 mark.
The Jets couldn’t keep the slate clean much longer, though, as the Devils’ top-ranked power play got to work and cut the lead in half.
With Dylan DeMelo in the box for tripping, Timo Meier found space in the slot and one-timed a puck that ramped off Dylan Samberg’s stick and over Connor Hellebuyck’s shoulder to make it 2-1 with 5:06 to go in the period.
Just over a minute later, New Jersey tied the game. After Hellebuyck had some trouble handling a point shot from Luke Hughes, the puck trickled to the faceoff dot where Curtis Lazar put it on net. Hellebuyck turned that aside but was well outside of his crease when John Marino banged home that rebound to level the score.
Winnipeg answered back with 1:50 remaining in the middle frame when the Jets won the puck back to the point where Samberg slid a short pass to Perfetti, who then sent a great cross-seam pass to Ehlers for a tap-in to restore the Jets’ lead after 40 minutes.
The Jets carried a 21-17 edge in shots on goal into the third but the Devils tilted that counter as they pushed for the equalizer. New Jersey outshot Winnipeg 10-2 in the first eight minutes of the period before the Jets earned a power play to try and pad their lead.
Connor nearly did when his backhand from in close hit the bar and stayed out, but before the penalty was over, he made sure his team’s lead increased.
It seemed that the Devils would clear the puck before Jonas Siegenthaler blew a tire behind his net, allowing Iafallo to take the puck and start a cycle. The puck would wind up with Schiefele along the half-wall, who sent a perfect backhand pass cross-ice for Connor to one-time past Schmid to make it 4-2 with 10:06 remaining.
The lead ballooned to three goals just over two minutes later. Namestnikov drilled Kevin Bahl into the boards below the Devils’ goal line, grabbed the puck and fed Morgan Barron near the faceoff dot, who squeezed one through Schmid to make it 5-2.
The Devils got one back thanks to their scorching-hot power play. Dougie Hamilton clonked a blast off the post and the puck ricocheted to the stick of Dawson Mercer, who buried it into an open net to make it 5-3 with 5:43 to go.
But any hope of a comeback was thwarted when Ehlers scored an empty-netter with 90 seconds left.
Neal Pionk appeared in his 400th career NHL game.
With the win, the Jets improve to 8-5-2 on the season heading into Friday night’s Pride Night game against the Buffalo Sabres. The puck drops just after 7 p.m. with pregame coverage starting at 5 p.m. on 680 CJOB.
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