By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Jack Roslovic believes the Winnipeg Jets are on the cusp of a second-half surge.
The 23-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, helped Winnipeg snap a five-game losing streak by scoring two goals and an assist in the Jets’ 5-2 victory over the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues at Bell MTS Place on Saturday night.
“It’s important to have one of those games and get the win,” Roslovic said. “So, I’m excited for the team and I think this is going to be the spark for the playoff push that we need to go on.
“It’s huge, especially against a team like that, a team that is high up in the standings. We can play with anybody. As far as that goes, it’s huge for us.”
Connor Hellebuyck was outstanding in net for the Jets (26-23-4). The NHL all-star goalie stopped 38 shots, while Jordan Binnington made 28 saves for the Central Division-leading Blues (31-14-8).
“He was all right tonight,” Binnington said of the Jets starting netminder. “He was pretty solid.”
After the Blues pulled within one with 4:10 left, Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler salted the game away with an empty-net goal with 1:31 left. Patrik Laine added another empty netter with 21 seconds remaining.
Ryan O’Reilly had scored at 15:50 of the third to get the Blues within a goal, when he beat Hellebuyck off a feed from Zach Sanford.
Brayden Schenn had broken Hellebuyck’s bid for a league-leading fifth shutout when he blasted a perfect feed from Jaden Schwartz at 13:20 of the third period.
“We know they have a lot of firepower and they’re fighting for their lives,” O’Reilly said. “They’re going to play desperate and you see from that, they get that first goal and get a bit of confidence and go from there. And for us, we have to play tougher on them.”
The Jets took a 3-0 lead into the final frame. Roslovic scored his second goal of the game when he put away a Dmitry Kulikov rebound with 2:55 remaining in the frame. Roslovic then sent Andrew Copp towards the net with a backhand pass and the Winnipeg centre beat Binnington with just 15 seconds left in the period. Sami Niku recorded his second helper of the night on the goal.
“We just tried to play with speed, not do too much through the neutral zone,” Copp said. “[Roslovic] made a great play on my goal. And then, just some good work by him on the second one. And then, the bounce on the first.”
The Jets got a lucky bounce off a linesman in the first period. Niku picked up the puck and fed Roslovic, who snapped a shot past Binnington on the stick side late in the period.
“I wanted to come up with a save there for the boys, but stuff happens and the puck doesn’t bounce your way,” added Binnington. “That’s where the goalies come in and I’ve got the have some accountability for myself. I just have to keep working hard and keep being there for the boys and it’ll come.”
Meanwhile, the Jets finally stopped the bleeding.
“I think we can get better,” Copp said. “It wasn’t perfect by any stretch. But it felt like it was a good step in the right direction. Depending on when we get guys back, it could be like this for a little while. Hopefully, we can build on today’s performance.”
The Jets will play host to the Nashville Predators in the final match of a three-game homestead on Tuesday, before heading to St. Louis to face the Blues on Thursday.
NOTES – Blues forward Alexander Steen – the son of legendary Jets centre Thomas Steen – celebrated his 1,000th NHL game Saturday night. Fans gave Alex a standing ovation during a short video tribute during a break in the action in the first period. Thomas Steen will be officially inducted into the Jets Hall of Fame during a game in Winnipeg on Feb. 11 … Winnipeg forward Mathieu Perreault, who suffered an upper-body injury Friday, will be out for two weeks. He was replaced in the lineup by Logan Shaw, a recent callup from the Manitoba Moose.