By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Paul Stastny fired in a pair of goals Sunday, but he was also really excited about the assist he notched in Winnipeg’s 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Stastny got the secondary assist on Nikolaj Ehlers’ goal, which marked his 500th NHL assist. Ehlers quickly scooped up the puck as a souvenir for the 16-year forward.
“It’s nice to get it,” Stastny said. “The in-laws are in town so they brought a little good luck.
“It was a big game. It was a big win for us. It was something we needed big time, confidence-wise for the morale and everything. It’s nice that Dave got his first win as well.”
The victory was the first for interim Winnipeg head coach Dave Lowry, who took over for the rest of the season after Paul Maurice resigned Friday morning. The Jets lost to Washington Friday night.
Stastny’s linemates, Ehlers and Mark Scheifele, finished off the rest of Sunday’s scoring. Ehlers had a goal and three assists and Scheifele had a goal and assist for the Jets (14-11-5), who ended a three-game winless streak (1-2-1).
Connor Hellebuyck made 26 saves for Winnipeg, the only Canadian team playing Sunday because of COVID-19 postponements for Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola scored for St. Louis (17-9-5), which had its seven-game point streak (5-1-2) halted. Pavel Buchnevich and Ivan Barbashev each had a pair of assists.
Jordan Binnington stopped 30 shots for the Blues after missing the previous eight games. He was in COVID-19 protocol for the first seven, then served as backup for Charlie Lindgren in the Blues’ 4-1 win over Dallas on Friday.
The game was the last for a while for Winnipeg and St. Louis, after the NHL announced Sunday that teams can’t cross the border to play starting Monday through the beginning of the holiday break – Dec. 23 – because of rising COVID-19 cases. Games will be postponed and rescheduled.
Winnipeg’s Tuesday game in Nashville had already been postponed, but now a Dallas contest the next day followed suit.
“You could see it coming kind of,” Scheifele said. “We weren’t really sure, so obviously we know now and waiting to see what all transpires. We’ll keep rolling with the punches.”
The Blues were returning to St. Louis because their games in Ottawa Tuesday and Toronto on Thursday were postponed.
St. Louis defenceman Torey Krug, playing his 600th NHL game, said he wished their testing procedures could ease up a bit because players are vaccinated.
“Most of the guys that are testing positive are sitting at home with not many symptoms and feel pretty good and comfortable to play,” Krug said.
“There’s a cold going around that guys have felt much worse with, so disappointed that we can’t play, but it is what it is. We can’t really do anything about it until there’s different protocols and things in place. For us, we’ve just got to do what we’re told, unfortunately.”
Scheifele was asked if he thinks February’s Olympic hockey competition might be in jeopardy.
“Obviously, it’s concerning not knowing what is going to happen,” Scheifele said. “Just kind of one of those things you got to kind of take day by day. It’s not in our hands anymore, you know what I mean?”
The Jets and Blues were 0-0 after the first period of Sunday’s match, despite both teams having power-play time.
Winnipeg had a pair of power plays and St. Louis went on the man advantage with 1:07 left in the period.
“It wasn’t our best defensive effort,” Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly said. “We kind of got caught on our heels a little bit too much tonight. Give them credit, they came super aggressive.”
The Jets scored at 4:40 of the second period when Scheifele sent a backhand pass out to Ehlers in the slot, who beat Binnington stick side with his 12th of the season. Ehlers then proudly got the puck for Stastny.
“(Forward Adam Lowry) said that it almost looked like I grabbed the puck before it went in,” Ehlers said. “I mean, everyone has known he needed that one to get 500. It’s awesome. It’s exciting. Now he’s never going to forget about me.”
Barbashev, playing in his 300th NHL game, set up the tying goal, sending the puck across the front of the net so Tarasenko could redirect it past Hellebuyck at 13:47.
Scheifele gained a 2-1 lead with a shot from the high slot at 16:47 of the second. Stastny made it 3-1 with a sharp-angled shot that went between Binnington and the post at 4:40 of the third.
Mikkola scored shorthanded at 14:28, but Stastny tallied his second of the game 16 seconds later on the power play.