By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — Head coach Claude Noel described Saturday’s matinée at MTS Centre as one of the best games his team has played this season, and despite peppering St. Louis with 41 shots, the Winnipeg Jets were pushed through overtime, eventually falling 3-2 to the Blues in the shootout.
The single point gained puts Winnipeg (68) two up on the Florida Panthers for top spot in the Southeast Division, and third in the Eastern Conference with 18 games remaining in the regular season.
Watch post-game reaction:
Trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes, Winnipeg’s leading scorer Blake Wheeler exploded for a pair of second period goals to tie the game. His 12th and 13th of the season — and 50th and 51st points — extends his point scoring streak to six games (3G, 10A). His continued offensive generation has helped the Jets capture nine of a possible 12 points over that span.
“I thought Blake Wheeler was the best player on the ice for both teams by far,” said coach Noel of his 25-year-old budding superstar. When he got on the ice he was dangerous. He’s a hard man to control when he skates like that. He dings one off the post. Scores two. Pretty much the best game I’ve seen him play.”
“Our line is playing extremely well,” said Wheeler of fellow forwards Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little. “You’re only as good as the guys you’re playing with. At least in the games that we’ve played, I haven’t seen many guys go better than those two guys in this league. We’re having some success right now, and we need to keep doing that the rest of the way to hopefully make our way into the playoffs.”
The Jets offence has fired on all cylinders lately where they’ve scored 22 times over their last six games, but Saturday they ran into the NHL’s top-ranked defensive team (1.92 goals allowed per game) and a red-hot goaltender in Jaroslav Halak.
“Our goalie was our best player,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “He needed to be.”
“They dominated us pretty much in every aspect of the game,” added St. Louis forward David Perron, who notched a first period goal and the clinching marker in the shootout. “Obviously Jaroslav kept us in the game all night. He was hot pretty much all night.”
Winnipeg (30-26-8) wraps their extended home stand with games against the Oilers, Panthers, and Sabres over the next week before heading out on a quick road trip through Vancouver and Calgary.
ChrisD.ca video/Darrin Bauming