By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Nick Foligno and his teammates are playing with the type of confidence that comes when you keep extending a franchise-best win streak.
Foligno had a goal and two assists as the Columbus Blue Jackets won their 14th game in a row, beating the Winnipeg Jets 5-3 on Thursday.
“I think you’re starting to see a team that’s understanding that we expect to win if we play a certain way,” Foligno said. “That’s great for this organization, for our fans and this group.”
Foligno’s three-point effort extended the captain’s point streak to four games with two goals and six assists.
Alexander Wennberg scored twice and Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also notched goals for Columbus (25-5-4). Rookie defenceman Zach Werenski contributed a pair of assists.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves for his 23rd win of the season, and 12th consecutive.
“I thought Bob made some key saves at key times,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said.
“(Winnipeg) had some glorious chances that they missed the net, which I thought was real important tonight. We’ll take it.”
The NHL record for the longest win streak is 17 games, set by Pittsburgh in 1992-93.
The victory also boosted the Blue Jackets’ point streak to 16 games (15-0-1).
Shawn Matthias, Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault scored for Winnipeg (17-18-3). Blake Wheeler had two assists.
Michael Hutchinson turned aside 30 shots in net.
Wheeler was asked if Columbus was the best team the Jets have faced this season.
“They’re certainly up there,” the captain replied. “You’d put them in the category of the elite in this league.
“Certainly the way they’re going right now, 14 in a row, that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment.”
Wheeler’s two assists stretched his point streak to six games with three goals and four helpers.
The Jets opened the scoring at 2:36 of the first period when defenceman Jacob Trouba’s straight-on shot from inside the blue line was tipped in by Matthias, but Saad evened the score at 7:55 after Columbus dumped the puck into Winnipeg’s end.
Hutchinson mishandled the puck behind the net and it went to Saad’s stick for a shot and then a rebound that he turned into his 14th goal of the season.
“We’re playing well right now and all four lines are rolling,” Saad said.
Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey took his second penalty of the game, leading to Foligno’s tip of Werenski’s point shot four seconds into the power play for the 2-1 lead at 16:29.
Columbus went into the game as the league’s top squad on the power play at 27.1 per cent.
Wennberg made it 3-1 at 8:21 of the second period after a Winnipeg coach’s challenge for goaltender interference was unsuccessful.
Foligno was sandwiched between Hutchinson and Jets defenceman Tobias Enstrom when Wennberg raced across the front of the net, grabbed the loose puck and fired it in.
Wennberg potted his eighth goal of the season at the 45-second mark of the third on a four-on-three.
Little’s redirection of a Drew Stafford pass during a power play narrowed the deficit to 4-2 at 6:29, but Sedlak tipped in Jack Johnson’s shot to make it 5-2 at 14:31.
“They make you pay in a lot of different ways, whether it’s on the power play or just getting traffic to the net,” Little said. “We had our opportunities, too, and we couldn’t find the back of the net on most of them.”
With Hutchinson out of the net and Winnipeg on the power play, Perreault blasted a shot past Bobrovsky with 1:33 left.
The Blue Jackets’ win streak includes victories over 13 different teams.
Winnipeg hosts the New York Islanders on New Year’s Eve. Columbus plays the same night in Minnesota against the Wild, who are riding a 12-game win streak.
“It’s going to be a blast,” Saad predicted. “They’re having a heck of a year and we’re playing well right now, too.
“It’s a fun building to play in. Someone has got to win, so we’re looking forward to taking that one from them.”
Jets forward Marko Dano left the game in the second with a lower-body injury after smashing into the boards.
Head coach Paul Maurice said he’d been out “weeks, easily.”
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