By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Even as Mark Scheifele‘s personal goalless streak stretched to seven games he knew that good habits would eventually end the drought.
Scheifele earned his fourth career hat trick on Friday night to lead the Winnipeg Jets to an 8-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils at the Canada Life Centre on Friday night.
“We had a tough stretch of hockey,” Scheifele said. “We weren’t happy with our game. But when you do the right things over and over, do the simple things, good things happen. I think tonight was just an example of that.”
Scheifele completed the hat trick when he scored on a one-timer on a pass from captain Blake Wheeler at the 9:36 mark of the third period to give Winnipeg a 7-4 lead. Wheeler assisted on two of Scheifele’s three goals as the Jets’ offence came alive after a lengthy dry spell.
“We were able to get some rest, we were able to get fresh legs and you guys saw that tonight, a lot of guys had a little more pop in their step,” said Scheifele. “Having that much time off is huge after having the amount of games we’ve played in such a short time. We used that to our advantage.”
Nikolaj Ehlers also broke out of a five-game goalless streak with two of his own for Winnipeg (11-8-4), while Kristian Vesalainen, Josh Morrissey and Adam Lowry also scored. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck made 33 saves for the win.
“It (two goals) obviously means a lot,” Ehlers said. “You want to help the team any way you can and a lot of the guys were able to get a point on a goal.
“Scoring points is fun, there’s no secret to that. But I think, overall, we played a game that gave us a chance to win and we deserve it.”
Nico Hischier and Ryan Graves both scored to give New Jersey (9-8-4) a 4-3 lead by the 1:16 mark of the second period. Jack Hughes and Damon Severson had first-period goals.
“Obviously good since we won the game, but it should have never gotten to that,” Ehlers said. “I think after 3-0, we stopped playing and gave them time and space to make their plays.”
Devils goalie Jonathan Bernier, who made 26 saves on 32 shots, was replaced by Mackenzie Blackwood to start the third period. Blackwood stopped 6-of-8 shots.
After blowing a 3-0 lead, the Jets took a 6-4 lead into the third period.
“We were down 3-0, we battled back hard,” said Devils coach Lindy Ruff. “The first eight minutes (of the second period) was just all us. Did some fatigue hit us? Yes.
“It’s always frustrating to work that hard and not be able to complete the deal … We had all kinds of opportunities to keep coming back but we didn’t complete the deal.”
After Hischier and Graves gave New Jersey its brief lead, Ehlers tied the score at 4-4 with his second goal of the game at the 10:39 mark of the second period. Andrew Copp, with his 100th career helper, assisted on the goal.
“We have to clean up our D-zone,” Hischier said. “There’s no way in this league you’re going to win hockey games when you get scored on that many times, and that’s what happened today. So, we definitely got to clean up.”
Winnipeg will play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, the same day the Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the West Final versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Wheeler is scheduled to play his 1,000th NHL game on Sunday,
The Devils return home to host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.