By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Patrik Laine is just doing what feels right.
The Winnipeg Jets forward became the fourth-youngest player in NHL history to score 100 career goals when he recorded a pair in Winnipeg’s 6-5 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. His close friend, Nikolaj Ehlers, had a hat trick.
“It feels like a lot of my shots are going in and that’s why I’m trying to shoot every time I get the chance,” Laine said.
He scored his 100th and 101st goals in his 178th game at the age of 20 years, 224 days. Wayne Gretzky did it the fastest in 20 years and 40 days. The other players were Jimmy Carson and Brian Bellows.
Laine said the milestone wasn’t on his mind as he knew it would come. The third-year Finnish sniper now has a league-leading 21 goals this season — 18 scored in November — and 24 points.
“Overall, I could play better hockey, especially tonight,” he said.”I can play better defence, but that’s something we need to do better.”
Ehlers scored a goal in each period, with his third fired in when he went in alone on goalie Corey Crawford and beat him with a low shot at 9:45 of the third period to make it 6-3. It was his third career hat trick.
“I feel like I’ve been playing some good hockey lately,” said Ehlers, who’s been on the top line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele for the past month. “It’s gotten better and better.
“My defensive game was not good today, but I worked hard as I can to continue growing as a player and today I got rewarded.”
Jacob Trouba had a goal and an assist for Winnipeg (14-8-2), while Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler each had three assists.
Artem Anisimov and John Hayden each had a goal and assist for Chicago (9-12-5). Marcus Kruger, Jan Rutta and Domink Kahun also scored. David Kampf contributed a pair of assists.
Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves for the Jets, who were 1-3-0 in their four previous games.
Crawford stopped 27 shots for the Blackhawks, who are 1-4-0 in their last five games.
“This hasn’t been good enough and it’s not OK,” Kruger said. “I think we’re all sick of losing here. We just got to be better.”
Anisimov’s goal came at 17:08 of the third to squeeze the score to 6-5, but the Blackhawks couldn’t continue the surge.
“It’s tough to say, but we just got to stick with the process here,” Chicago forward Patrick Kane said. “Sometimes you go through these struggles and things get worse before they get better. So you try to stick with what the coaches want us to do.”
Three goals were scored in the first four minutes of the opening period, which ended tied 2-2.
Laine used a rebound to score his 20th goal of the season at 1:43. Kruger flipped in a bouncing puck at 3:03 and Ehlers regained Winnipeg’s lead 49 seconds later. Hayden tied it with a rebound off Kampf’s breakaway shot at 8:10.
Ehlers scored his seventh goal of the season at 1:01 of the second and Trouba put away his second of the season 45 seconds later to jump out to a 4-2 lead.
Jets defenceman Cameron Schilling, called up from the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose on Wednesday, picked up the secondary assist of Ehlers’s goal, the first point of his seven-game NHL career. The 30-year-old Indiana native hadn’t played an NHL game since March 2015 when he was with Washington.
Schilling and fellow defenceman Sami Niku were on the ice replacing injured blue-liners Dustin Byfuglien and Joe Morrow.
Hellebuyck missed a glove save on a long shot by Rutta at 9:31 to squeeze the score 4-3.
Laine scored on the power play at 1:18 of the third. He has 14 points (13 goals, one assist) in his past seven games. Ehlers, Kahun and Anisimov finished the game’s scoring.
The Jets head out for a three-game road trip starting against New Jersey on Saturday. Chicago ends its quick two-game road trip Saturday in Nashville.