By Joe Harris, The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS – Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck didn’t mind the expanded workload on Thursday night.
Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor each had a goal and an assist, and the Jets beat the St. Louis Blues 5-1.
Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev also scored and Mark Scheifele had a pair of assists as the Jets won their fifth season opener in six years. Hellebuyck made 41 saves and improved to 5-2 against St. Louis in his career.
“I was having some fun out there, I was enjoying everything,” Hellebuyck said. “The guys made it so easy on me. I was able to square up and do my job. I think that’s the key.”
Lowry’s unassisted short-handed goal at 5:51 of the third began a Winnipeg three-goal outburst in a span of 1 minute, 44 seconds to put away the game. Lowry’s breakaway came moments after Hellebuyck stoned Alexander Steen on a power-play chance.
“He was unreal, just ridiculous,” Laine said of Hellebuyck. “Watching from the bench those saves he made. He was really good tonight and I think he was easily the best player on the ice tonight.”
Wheeler scored 64 seconds later and Connor tipped one past Jake Allen at 7:35 to complete the flurry.
“It didn’t take too long,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s a breakdown that turns into another breakdown that turns into another breakdown. That can’t happen. At a point when we needed to keep pushing and find another level to our game, we took a step back.”
The Jets outscored the Blues 4-1 in the third period, despite getting outshot 20-8. Jets coach Paul Maurice gave the credit to Hellebuyck.
“Most of it was short-handed but you need your goaltender to be that good and he had a number of really good saves,” Maurice said. “You get a guy like that playing that kind of game, it inspires you to push a little harder. He had to be real good.”
The Jets have won nine of their last 11 against the Blues and have outscored St. Louis 36-19 during that span.
Vince Dunn scored late in the third period and Allen made 20 saves as the Blues lost their season opener for the first time in four years.
Laine gave the Jets a 1-0 lead four minutes into the game with a power-play goal that deflected off of Blues defenceman Colton Parayko and past Allen.
“I felt really good during the game,” Laine said. “I was able to create some good chances. I think it was a pretty good first game.”
Hellebuyck made 22 saves in the first two periods, including a big blocker save on Ryan O’Reilly’s power-play chance late in the second, and got help from his post twice in the first.
“It was tough to crack him,” O’Reilly said. “It happens some nights, but you’ve got to push through it and find a way to put it in.”
FACE IN THE CROWD
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman attended the game and toured the future site of the team’s new training facility and the upgrades to the newly named Enterprise Center.
“I took a tour of the building and the money that was spent was put to very good use,” Bettman said. “I don’t think this building has ever looked better.”
NOTES: Blues C Robert Thomas and C Jordan Kyrou made their NHL debuts. … Jets LW Kristian Vesalainen, a 2017 first-round pick, picked up an assist his NHL debut. … Blues scratched D Joel Edmunson, D Robert Bortuzzo and D Niko Mikkola. . Jets scratched D Dmitry Kulikov, LW Brendan Lemieux and C Marko Dano.
Jets: At Dallas on Saturday night.
Blues: Host Chicago on Saturday night.