By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Coach Paul Maurice was thankful it was the Winnipeg Jets who capitalized on a mistake.
Andrew Copp scored with 1:54 left in the third period to lift the Jets to a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. Columbus netminder Elvis Merzlikins tried to clear the puck up the middle of the ice and Copp knocked it down and scored.
“I’m glad it was theirs. Really glad it was theirs,” Maurice replied when asked what he was thinking when the goalie committed the turnover.
Columbus coach John Tortorella wasn’t in the mood to talk about the play. As he walked toward reporters for the post-game scrum, he told them not to ask him about the goal.
“I’m warning you, I’ll walk,” Tortorella said.
Copp also picked up an assist for the Jets (14-9-1), who are 4-1-0 in their past five games.
“Luckily enough it kind of hit off a (defenceman) and slid in,” Copp said of his fourth goal of the season.”Kind of a fortuitous bounce, but with two minutes left you’ll take them any way you can get them.”
Nikolaj Ehlers scored his team-leading 11th goal of the season for Winnipeg. Blake Wheeler had a goal and assist and Mathieu Perreault also scored.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Seth Jones and Gustav Nyquist each scored power-play goals as Columbus (9-9-4), saw its three-game win streak end. Oliver Bjorkstrand contributed a pair of assists.
Winnipeg netminder Laurent Brossoit stopped 27 of the 30 shots he faced before he left the ice limping with 11:19 remaining in the third period. Connor Hellebuyck replaced him and made five saves.
Merzlikins stopped 27 shots for the Blue Jackets, who are 3-1-1 in their last five games.
The Jets lost defencemen Josh Morrissey (lower body) and Nathan Beaulieu (upper body) to injuries in the second period.
Maurice said Brossoit had cramped up and wanted to go back in, but he stuck with Hellebuyck. Maurice also said Morrissey should be fine and Beaulieu needed some tests.
Dubois said Copp’s goal was tough to swallow, but Merzlikins didn’t deserve all the blame.
“You have to find a way to push and to push the pace to try to break them because they’re playing with four defencemen,” Dubois said.
“So it’d be easy, but lazy, to say that we lost because of that mistake at the end because you have 60 minutes to win a game. It never comes down to just one minute or one mistake.”
Tortorella said his players tried hard.
“We were the better team that found a way to lose,” he said.
The game was tied 1-1 after the first period and 3-3 after two.
Dubois got the power-play scoring started at 4:59 of the first period with his 10th goal of the season, extending his point streak to four games with four goals and two assists in that span.
Winnipeg responded with Wheeler firing in a one-timer past Merzlikins for his sixth goal of the season at 8:23.
Ehlers came out of the penalty box for tripping early in the second period and promptly scored after a passing play with Wheeler to give the Jets a 2-1 lead at 5:19. It was Wheeler’s 600th career point with the franchise.
The lead was short lived as Jets defencemen Tucker Poolman and Luca Sbis were dinged with penalties nine seconds apart.
Jones scored with the two-man advantage at 6:30 and Nyquist notched his goal 47 seconds later to swing the score 3-2 for Columbus.
Blue Jackets defenceman Zach Werenski picked up an assist on Jones’s goal, rolling his point streak to six games with three goals and five assists.
Perreault tied it up with just over five minutes left in the second period.
Morrissey left the game a minute after Nyquist’s goal and Beaulieu departed with four minutes remaining.
Wheeler praised the four defencemen who had to play extra minutes.
“They did an amazing job and, honestly, it didn’t look like they were gasping for air, it didn’t look like treading water,” Wheeler said.
The Jets were 0 for 3 on the power play and Columbus finished 3 for 5.
After only one home game, Winnipeg heads out for a three-game road trip starting Wednesday in San Jose. Columbus returns home to host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.